William Goebel was the Governor of Kentucky. He was one of the most controversial politicians in his state’s history—he served as Governor for only four days in 1900. He remains the only governor in the United States who was assassinated while in office.
A progressive Democrat, he championed railroad regulation, trade unions, and expanded civil rights for women and African-Americans, and sought to dismantle corporate monopolies within the state. But his single-minded pursuit of power and cold, abrasive personality made him many enemies. His detractors nicknamed him “Boss Bill” and “William the Conqueror.”
Goebel killed political rival John Sandford in a gunfight on April 11, 1895. Some might call it a duel. He was tried for murder and acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. This action did not win him any friends. Threats were made if he was elected governor, and body guards were assigned. On January 30, 1900, he was shot in the chest by a sniper as he walked to the Kentucky State capital building. He was sworn into office on his deathbed. Four days later he was dead. In the spring of 1900, sixteen men were indicted for complicity in Goebel’s murder.
The 10th anniversary of his death was observed by the unveiling of a monument above his grave in the State Frankfort Cemetery. At the same time, the body of Arthur Goebel (from Phoenix, Arizona) who devoted his life to prosecuting the alleged conspirators and died, just after his work was completed, was laid to rest beside his brother. Arthur Goebel was described as being the heart-broken brother of governor Goebel. Lillie Goebel, also of Phoenix, cut the cord releasing the flag which veiled the statue.
The memorial statue for William Goebel was dedicated in 1914 and stands on the grounds of the Old State Capital—not far from where the Governor was fatally wounded. On the right of the statue (not shown here) is the former Capital office building. It is believed that Goebel’s assassin fired the fatal shot from a second floor window of that building.
Could ghosts of the controversial murder still be lurking on the State of Kentucky capitol grounds?
Arizona Haunted Sites examiner: Debe Branning firstname.lastname@example.org