FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Elvis Presley was a "Kentucky Colonel." So is Bill Clinton, and Muhammad Ali. With at least 85,000 other people enjoying the title, Kentucky's new Republican governor wants to review what it takes to receive the highest honor he can bestow.
Gov. Matt Bevin is "not issuing colonels right now" but will do so again soon, his spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said. "When we issue the colonels we want to ensure we are honoring the significance and supporting the mission of the honorable order."
The title of Kentucky Colonel dates back to the early 19th century, when Kentucky had a volunteer state militia that included officers commissioned as colonels. When the militia disbanded, Gov. Isaac Shelby hired one of its former officers to work on his staff, giving him the rank and title of colonel.
The title soon became ceremonial, often bestowed to honor a person's good deeds or service. Through the years, it has been commissioned to celebrities (Fred Astaire, Whoopi Goldberg), athletes (Tiger Woods, Richard Petty), presidents (Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan) and, of course, Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.
Only the governor can name a Kentucky Colonel, and he can award it for any reason. The only requirement is a recommendation from another Kentucky Colonel. Recipients are asked to join and donate money to the Honorable Order of the Kentucky Colonels, a nonprofit that awards scholarships and grants. The group plans to give away about $1.5 million this year.
Lynn Ashton, the group's executive director, said she is not aware that any other governor did such a review.
"We're very happy to work with the governor in taking a look at the application and the requirements that it takes," she said.