Go Vote Where Politics is the Damnedest

One of the most popular posts on this site has been the text from James Hillary Mulligan’s poem, In Kentucky, which I posted on election day, 2010. Today I make the same plea I made four years ago: get out and VOTE!

Today, I’ll give a little more background on the man who delivered the poem as it is recalled in my new book, Lost Lexington which is available on shelves today.

Judge James Hillary Mulligan * 

One of the great moments in the Phoenix Hotel’s storybook involves a speech delivered to a group of legislators by Judge James Mulligan. James Hillary Mulligan was the son of Dennis Mulligan, an Irish Catholic political boss whose machine swiftly controlled much of Kentucky. Dennis Mulligan gave his son a home on Rose Street as a wedding gift. The residence, known as Maxwell Place, has served as the home for the president of the University of Kentucky since it was purchased from the Mulligan estate by the college in 1917.

During his own career, James Mulligan reached high levels of political power, including a stint as speaker of the house in Kentucky’s general assembly. He preferred, however, the title of “judge” in deference to the position he attained in his legal career.

Mulligan also served as the consul general in the American Samoa and held positions in the United States Treasury Department. The Lexington Leader wrote that he was “a shrewd looking man, even through his spectacles, and has an air of always being alert. The Judge loves to debate, has a penchant for thoroughbreds, does not care for society, and can make a better humorous or satirical speech than any man in the state of Kentucky.”

It was that humorous and satirical spirit which provided Mulligan his greatest legacy. In the ballroom of the Phoenix Hotel in February 1902, Mulligan spoke before a number of state legislators. To conclude his toast, “he drew from his pocket, as if drawing a deadly weapon, dangerous-looking type written manuscript, and peering over his glasses with a smile of satisfaction that amounted almost to a leer, read” his poem, In Kentucky:

The moonlight falls the softest
  In Kentucky;
The summer’s days come oft’est
  In Kentucky;
Friendship is the strongest,
Love’s fires glow the longest;
Yet, a wrong is always wrongest
  In Kentucky.

Song birds are the sweetest
  In Kentucky;
The thoroughbreds the quickest
  In Kentucky;
Mountains tower proudest,
Thunder peals the loudest,
The landscape is the grandest—and
Politics—the damnedest
  In Kentucky.

The poem has seven verses and you can read them all here.

This post is based on an excerpt about the Phoenix Hotel from LOST LEXINGTON, KY.

Lexington has dozens of well-restored landmarks, but so many more are lost forever. The famous Phoenix Hotel, long a stop for weary travelers and politicians alike, has risen from its own ashes numerous times over the past centuries. The works of renowned architect John McMurtry were once numerous around town, but some of the finest examples are gone. The Centrepointe block has been made and unmade so many times that its original tenants are unknown to natives now.

Where to purchase LOST LEXINGTON?