by Cameron Strause
John Crittenden was among the most influential Kentuckians of the 19th century. Born in Woodford County in 1987, Crittenden received his formal education from William and Mary College. He found success practicing law in Woodford and Logan counties. This laid the foundation for Crittenden’s next position as attorney general of the Illinois territory in 1809. Following this stint as Illinois attorney general, Crittenden unselfishly volunteered to serve the United States in the War of 1812.
Crittenden’s early success and dedication to his nation launched him into a lengthy political and legal career. After being elected to the Kentucky legislature, Crittenden found himself elected to the United States Senate and served from 1817-1819. From 1827 to 1842 Crittenden was appointed United States Attorney, reelected to the US Senate, and appointed Attorney General of the United States. Following this segment of his career, Crittenden returned home to serve his home state of Kentucky as governor. In 1850, President Fillmore again appointed Crittenden as Attorney General of the United States. He was reelected as senator in 1854 and then to the House of Representatives. After a distinguished legal and political career, Crittenden passed away near Frankfort, Kentucky at the age of 75.
John Crittenden remains one of the most distinguished lawyers and politicians ever from the state of Kentucky. His legacy in the Bluegrass State lives on today. Many Louisvillians will recognize Crittenden’s name from Crittenden Drive. However, those who take time to look deeper into his life and career will gain an appreciation for his unwavering commitment to Kentucky and the United States.