J. C. W. Beckham (August 5, 1869 - January 9, 1940) served as both Governor of Kentucky and in the United States Senate.
Beckham was born and raised in Bardstown, Kentucky at Wickland, the family estate that still stands and is open to the public. Through his mother, Julia Wickliffe Beckham, he was related to two governors - one in Kentucky, the other in Louisiana. He was educated at Central University and while there became a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. When he returned to Bardstown he took a job overseeing the public schools there.
Beckham was a lawyer and a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives when he ran for Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky on the Democratic ticket under William Goebel. The election was hotly contested and ended in controversy; Goebel was assassinated while the election was being contested and Beckham ended up as governor at the age of 31. He also won a special election, called due to the controversy surrounding the prior election and the assassination, in November 1900. Beckham won a second, full term in 1903.
While Beckham was governor Kentucky began building its current capitol building and enacted a school textbook law.
The Black Patch War resulted in Governor Beckham declaring martial law and mobilizing the Kentucky Military to restore order.
Beckham unsuccessfully sought nomination to the United States Senate in 1908 in the days before senators were popularly elected. In 1914 Beckham became the first popularly elected United States Senator from Kentucky, defeating his fellow former Governor of Kentucky Augustus E. Willson. Beckham served in the United States Senate 1915-1920 but he was denied re-election by a very narrow margin in 1920.
Oddly, during his single term in the Senate Beckham served alongside three other U. S. Senators from Kentucky: Ollie M. James, George B. Martin and Augustus O. Stanley.
Beckham unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for Governor of Kentucky in 1927 and for the United States Senate in 1936.
Beckham County, Oklahoma is named for J. C. W. Beckham.
The short lived Beckham County, Kentucky was also named for J. C. W. Beckham. He died in 1940 in Louisville, Kentucky and is buried at Frankfort Cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky.