Albert Benjamin Chandler was born July 14, 1898 in Corydon, Kentucky. Three years later, Chandler's teenaged mother, Callie, fled the state, abandoning her husband Joseph and their young sons. Chandler worked his way through college and law school, going on to achieve memorable careers in both politics and sports. An ambitious and often polarizing figure in his chosen fields, Chandler never failed to show his deep love for the Bluegrass State. In honor of the inimitable Kentucky politician and perhaps the most famous singer of Kentucky's state song, here are 10 things you probably didn't know about Happy Chandler.
- Chandler earned his undergraduate degree at Transylvania College, where he was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, captain of the football and basketball teams, and quarterback of the football team.
- At Transylvania, Chandler earned the nickname "Happy", because he was always jovial and pleasant.
- After earning a degree from Transylvania, Happy considered a career in professional baseball (he even threw a no-hitter in a development league game!), but chose instead to attend Harvard Law School.
- While matriculating at Harvard, he scouted the University's football team; many credit this intel as a factor in Centre College's famous 1921 victory over Harvard.
- After one year of Harvard education proved too financially draining, he completed his law degree at the University of Kentucky. Throughout law school, he worked as a high school baseball coach and a football scout and assistant coach for Centre College.
- Chandler's political career spanned over sixty years. He was named Chairman of the Woodford County Democratic Party in the 1920s, and master commissioner of the Woodford County Circuit Court in 1928.
- Happy served as the 44th (1935-1939) and 49th (1945-1951) Governor of Kentucky and the 2nd Commissioner of Baseball (1945-51). Innovations attributed to his terms included a free textbook program, participation in the federal rural electrification program, establishment of a teachers' retirement system and an old-age assistance program, and the start of a special rural roads program
- As Baseball Commissioner, Happy approved the Brooklyn Dodgers' contract with Jackie Robinson, paving the way for African-American players in baseball.
- Other jobs held by Chandler included newspaper publisher, Senator, and Commissioner of the Continental Football League.
- Chandler was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Man of the Year by both The Kentucky Press Association and the Kentucky Broadcasting Association, and was the longest-living Kentucky governor.
Here's to Happy on the 117th anniversary of his birth! He wasn't always right, but he always loved the Commonwealth!