The Governor of Kentucky is the head of the executive branch of Kentucky's state government,  and serves as commander-in-chief of the state's military forces.  The governor has a duty to enforce state laws;  the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Kentucky General Assembly;  the power to convene the legislature;  and the power to grant pardons, except in cases of treason and impeachment.  He or she is also empowered to reorganize the state government or reduce it in size. Historically, the office has been regarded as one of the most powerful executive positions in the United States. 
Fifty-eight individuals have held the office of Governor. Prior to a 1992 amendment to the state's constitution, the Governor was prohibited from succeeding himself in office, though four men ( Isaac Shelby, John L. Helm, James B. McCreary and Happy Chandler) served multiple non-consecutive terms. Paul E. Patton, the first Kentucky Governor eligible for a second consecutive term under the amendment, won his reelection bid in 1999. James Garrard succeeded himself in 1800, before the constitutional provision existed.
William Goebel, who was elected to the office in the disputed election of 1899, remains the only Governor of any U.S. state to die from assassination while in office.  Martha Layne Collins, who held the office from 1983 to 1987, was the first woman to serve as governor and was only the third woman to serve as governor of any U.S. state who was not the wife or widow of a previous governor.  The 62nd and current Kentucky Governor is Republican Matt Bevin, who took office on December 8, 2015.
Kentucky was initially Kentucky County in Virginia. It achieved statehood and was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1792; see the list of governors of Virginia for the period before statehood. There have been 57 governors, serving 61 distinct terms.
An unelected group proclaimed Kentucky's secession from the Union on November 20, 1861, and it was annexed by the Confederate States of America on December 10, 1861. The Confederate government elected two governors (listed separately), but it never held much control over the state, and the main line of governors was preserved.
The original 1792 Kentucky Constitution had the governor chosen by an electoral college for a term of four years.  The second constitution in 1799 changed this to a popular vote, and prevented governors from succeeding themselves within seven years of their terms.  The third constitution in 1850 reduced the succession limitation to four years.  A 1992 amendment to the constitution allowed governors to have a second term before being prevented from succeeding themselves for four years. 
During the Civil War, a group of secessionists met at the Russellville to form a Confederate government for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. While this government never successfully displaced the government in Frankfort, two men were elected governor of the Confederate government: George W. Johnson, who served from November 20, 1861 to his death on April 8, 1862 at the Battle of Shiloh, and, on Johnson's death, Richard Hawes, who served until the Confederate surrender on April 9, 1865. The Confederate government disbanded shortly after the end of the war in 1865. 
- The state labels Matt Belvin as the 62nd governor;  based on this, subsequent terms of repeat governors are numbered.
- The office of Lieutenant Governor was created in the 1799 constitution. 
- Lieutenant governors represented the same party as their governor unless noted.
- Madison died in office; as lieutenant governor, Slaughter succeeded him.
- Represented the Democratic Party.
- Breathitt died in office; as lieutenant governor, Morehead succeeded him.
- The National Republican Party changed its name to the Whig Party in 1834.
- Represented the National Republican Party.
- Clark died in office; as lieutenant governor, Wickliffe succeeded him.
- Crittenden resigned to be Attorney General of the United States; as lieutenant governor, Helm succeeded him.
- The 1850 Constitution shifted the election schedule forward, shortening this term by a year.
- Represented the Whig Party.
- Magoffin resigned due to his disagreement with the state legislature over neutrality in the American Civil War; with lieutenant governor being vacant, he was succeeded by President of the Senate Robinson.
- Helm died in office; as lieutenant governor, Stevenson succeeded him.
- Stevenson won a special election held in 1868.
- Stevenson resigned to take an elected seat in the United States Senate; with lieutenant governor being vacant, he was succeeded by President of the Senate Leslie.
- Taylor won the 1899 election and was sworn into office. However, the legislature challenged the validity of his win, claiming ballot fraud. His challenger, Goebel, was shot on January 30, 1900, but was named governor by the legislature and sworn in the next day; he died three days later. Since Lieutenant Governor Marshall's win had also been invalidated, Beckham, having been named lieutenant governor, succeeded Goebel.
- Beckham won a special election held in 1900.
- Stanley resigned to take an elected seat in the United States Senate; as lieutenant governor, Black succeeded him.
- Chandler resigned so that his successor would appoint him to the United States Senate; as lieutenant governor, Johnson succeeded him and did so.
- Clements resigned to take an elected seat in the United States Senate; as lieutenant governor, Wetherby succeeded him.
- Ford resigned to take an elected seat in the United States Senate; as lieutenant governor, Carroll succeeded him.
- Governor Bevin's term expires on December 10, 2019; he has announced he is running for reelection.
- "Kentucky's Governors". Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. Archived from the original on July 8, 2010. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
- "Governors of Kentucky". National Governors Association. Archived from the original on 2011-03-16. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
- "Texts of the Constitutions of Kentucky". Kentucky Court of Justice. Archived from the original on 2010-03-18. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
- "Kentucky Constitution". Kentucky Legislature. Archived from the original on 2010-06-17. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
- "1792 Kentucky Constitution" (PDF). Commonwealth of Kentucky. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-03-13. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
- "1799 Kentucky Constitution" (PDF). Commonwealth of Kentucky. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-03-13. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
- "1850 Kentucky Constitution" (PDF). Commonwealth of Kentucky. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-03-13. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
- KY Const. art. 69.
- KY Const. art. 75.
- KY Const. art. 81
- KY Const. art. 88.
- KY Const. art. 80.
- KY Const. art. 77.
- Kleber, John E., ed. (1992). "Governor, Office of". The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1772-0.
- Kleber, John E., ed. (1992). "Goebel Assassination". The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1772-0.
- 1799 Const. art. II, § 2–3
- 1799 Const. art. III, § 3–4
- 1850 Const. art. III, § 3
- KY Const. art. 71
- "Governor Matt Belvin". Governor of Kentucky. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
- 1799 Const. art. II, § 15
- Kleber, John E., ed. (1992). "Confederate Government". The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1772-0.
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