Historical Marker #978 in Simpson County notes the birthplace of US Representative and Senator Virgil Munday Chapman.
Kentucky has produced its fair share of politicians who made a name for themselves on the national stage. Some are better remembered than others. From the nineteenth century, Henry Clay and John C. Breckinridge quickly come to mind; in the twentieth century, John Sherman Cooper and Alben Barkley made their mark. A twentieth century Kentucky politician that is not as well remembered, but yet made a difference for Kentucky while on Capitol Hill, was Virgil Munday Chapman.
Chapman was born in Simpson County on March 15, 1895. He was educated in local schools and graduated from Franklin High School in 1913. Chapman studied at the University of Kentucky, graduating with a bachelor of law degree in 1918. Chapman’s outstanding college career included serving as senior class president, participating on the staff of the student newspaper, and he was editor-in-chief of the “Kentucky Law Journal.” He was admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1917, a year before he finished college.
After graduation, Chapman established a law practice in Estill County. Soon thereafter he moved Paris, Kentucky, and practiced law in Lexington. Chapman married Mary Adams Talbott in 1920.
In 1924, Chapman ran unopposed as the Democratic candidate from the Seventh Congressional District. He served two terms, but was not reelected in 1928, when Republicans took charge of Congress. Chapman was elected again in 1930 and served for eight consecutive terms. During his time as a representative, Chapman championed Kentucky’s tobacco growers and spoke in favor for various farm aid bills. He also helped draft and pass the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938.
Chapman took another political step forward when he was elected to the US Senate in 1948, when he defeated the Republican candidate, John Sherman Cooper. However, Chapman’s senatorial career was cut short when he was killed in 1951 in an automobile accident in Washington D.C.