KMI HISTORY: 

The Kentucky Military Institute enjoyed a long and prestigious history in the field of education in Kentucky. It drew students from all over the country, especially from the Ohio valley and the South. Not only an educational institution, but also a social element in the life of Kentucky's capital city. Older family papers and records reflect this fact. The institute, founded in 1845, was chartered on 20 January 1847. The school was to be operated as a quasi military corps of the commonwealth, and the Governor was authorized to issue a commission of "Colonel" to the Superintendent. The school was to be open to any commissioned officer of the state militia, and to such other students as could qualify themselves "after a full examination upon all branches of the arts and sciences, and literature taught at the institute, and upon satisfactory evidence that said graduates have been engaged in literary pursuits for three years thereafter, or have remained at the Institute, as residents for one year." Upon meeting these qualifications cadets were graduated with the appropriate degree, or "the degree of graduate of the Kentucky Military Institute." 

Two years later, the General Assembly of Kentucky amended the charter of the Kentucky Military Institute to include the Franklin Institute in its organization. The name of the institution was changed to the Kentucky Collegiate and Military Institute. The Institute operated many years as a collegiate institution with state chartered literary societies and chapters of national Greek letter fraternities, including Alpha Tau Omega, Chi Phi, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Phi Delta Theta, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon. The creation of the school followed the pattern being set in the rest of the South by operating military institutes, ostensibly to serve as an officer training adjunct to the state militia systems. Training in these military institutes was to become a noteworthy mark in the South, and the military annals of both the region and the Nation were filled with the names of officers and other respected individuals who had graduated from their classrooms. The Kentucky Military Institute, or "KMI" as it was affectionately known, graduated hundreds of students who not only went into military service, but also filled the literary and scientific mandate of the original charter. 

In his selected biographical sketches of graduates and former cadets of "KMI," James Darwin Stephens has created a veritable panoply of some of the schools best known graduates and heroes. He documents in good measure the fact that the Institute met the challenges set for it by the Kentucky General Assembly in 1847. The Kentucky Military Institute went through a series of moves and academic metamorphoses before it finally ceases operation as a military school in the spring term of 1971. Stephens has been selective of the subjects which he shows as representative of much of the Institute's long operational history. 

The several personal sketches represented in this collection cover a wide chronological range, and an interesting assortment of personal experiences. Among these are several soldiers, enlisted men and officers who gave a good account of themselves from the Civil War through the Vietnam campaigns. Included are those men who were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and others whose decorations filled their chests with medals, ribbons, and supplementary clusters of all descriptions. 

Associated with the names of KMI graduates and former cadets were such historic moments as Bull Run, Chickamauga, Missionary Bridge, Stone's River, Wilderness, Gettysburg, San Juan Hill, Wounded Knee, World Wars I and II, the cross compartments of Korea, and the battles in Vietnam. Several of these men fell in battle while others were seriously wounded or disabled. 

In all of their dramatic exploits and noble careers many of these men of KMI brought personal credit to themselves and to history. Some with varied eccentricities and noteworthy differences forged honorable military careers, distinguished by acts of great personal bravery, while others persevered in other walks of life. Several became known as judges, representatives, senators, editors, state and county officials, stage, and screen actors. Numerous such lives and experiences are recalled by Stephens in this book. He illuminates a rather personal history of the Kentucky Military Institute with various sketches and colorful characteristic profiles. His work gives a good example of this phase of Kentucky educational history, which endured more than a century of successful operation. In the careers of its graduates and former cadets, Stephens shows in some detail how they lived up to the ideals and expectations expressed in KMI's original charter of 1847. 

Thomas D. Clark 
Professor-emeritus of History 
University of Kentucky 

 
 
 
 
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