Crit Luallen ’74 sworn in as Kentucky’s lieutenant governor
Centre College alumna Crit Blackburn Luallen ’74 took the official oath of office at the state Capitol in Frankfort on Friday, Nov. 14, becoming the 56th lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Gov. Steven L. Beshear appointed Luallen to fill the position vacated by Jerry Abramson, who will serve as a deputy assistant to President Barack Obama and director of intergovernmental affairs.
The nearly hour-long swearing-in ceremony began with music performed by a string quartet of alumni of the Governor’s School for the Arts, a program Luallen helped develop while serving as commissioner of the Kentucky Department of the Arts under Gov. Martha Lane Collins. During the music, Lt. Col. John Blackburn of the Kentucky National Guard escorted Luallen to the Rotunda. Both are descendants of Luke P. Blackburn, Kentucky’s 28th governor, who served 1879-1883. Luallen is also descended from John J. Crittenden, Kentucky’s 17th governor, who served 1850-1853.
Fellow Centre classmate Bob Stewart ’74, secretary of Kentucky’s Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, led the ceremony. In his call to order, Stewart recalled his longtime friendship with Luallen, extending back to their days as classmates at both Frankfort High School and Centre College.
“Today is especially meaningful to me,” said Stewart, who has been a colleague and frequent collaborator with Luallen in state government, and he praised her “remarkable skills, knowledge, experience and commitment to excellence in everything she does.”
Stewart added that her appointment should be “inspiring to an entire generation of young people, especially women, who have in Crit a home-grown role model who exemplifies the very best in the commitment she possesses for public service and the dignity with which she carries out those responsibilities.” Luallen is also only the third woman to hold the office of lieutenant governor, preceded by Thelma Stovall and Martha Layne Collins.
During the posting of the colors by the Kentucky State Police Honor Guard that followed Stewart’s remarks, Lafayette High School sophomore Catarine Hancock, great-niece of Luallen’s husband, Lynn, sang the national anthem. The Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Kemper, minister of the New Union Christian Church in Woodford County, where Luallen has been a longtime member, then offered the invocation.
In his remarks, Gov. Beshear made clear that his decision for Abramson’s replacement “began and ended with one person.” Citing Luallen’s long record of public service and her belief that “public service is an honorable calling,” Beshear added, “she knows government to be—at its best—a friend to the vulnerable, a partner in economic progress and a force for change.” Beshear will be the seventh Kentucky governor with whom Luallen has worked.
Luallen was then introduced by Eleanor Jordan, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Women, who called her friend and colleague worthy of the title “Honorable” that comes with her new position. “Her reputation precedes her,” Jordon said of Luallen, “and her legacy follows” based on her “principled decision-making.”
In her remarks to the packed gallery in the Capitol Rotunda, Luallen began by paying tribute to her early ancestors and to Kentucky pioneers, “whose fortitude and resilience is instilled in so many of our people today. Their blood runs in my veins, and I feel an obligation to build on the sacrifices made by those past generations.”
After acknowledging the past, Luallen then looked forward.
“It is up to our generation to mentor, to support, to encourage the next generation of leaders for Kentucky,” she said. “If people of good will and integrity continue to step forward, as so many of you have done, and if those of us serving today can all put aside our differences to truly strive for the common wealth, then we will together secure a brighter future.”
She concluded by reference to the Capitol building itself.
“We are here to carry out the hopes of those who could only dream of what lay ahead for our state,” Luallen said, “but laid these stones and built the foundation of a state government that would serve every Kentuckian in every corner of the Commonwealth through the leadership of those willing to step forward and serve.”
When her remarks concluded, the Hon. Phillip Shepherd, chief circuit court judge for Kentucky’s 48th Judicial Circuit in Franklin County, swore in Luallen.
John A. Roush, president of Centre College, where Luallen has served 16 years on the board of trustees, offered closing remarks. Roush spoke of Luallen by reference to the Kentuckian whose statue graces the Capitol Rotunda, suggesting that Luallen and Abraham Lincoln share common characteristics.
“It is our good fortune—a blessing, in fact,” said Roush, “that the Commonwealth has called back into service a leader whose style is participative, inclusive; a leader who treats everyone with courtesy and respect; one who brings out the best in others; a leader who respects the dignity of all people at all times.”
The ceremony concluded with the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” by Colmon Elridge, executive assistant to Gov. Beshear.
In the reception that followed at the Governor’s Mansion, the Kentucky Music Ensemble entertained guests. This collection of Centre students, faculty and alumni is led by NEH Associate Professor of Music Nathan Link and includes Jeri Katherine Howell ’16, James Kalb ’12, Alex Ruffner ’13, Associate Professor of Chemistry Conrad Shiba and Dan Worley.
Luallen is the second Centre graduate to hold the office of Kentucky’s lieutenant governor. James Breathitt Jr. served 1927-31 under Gov. Flem D. Sampson. In addition, 11 state governors attended or graduated from Centre, including John Y. Brown, Class of 1855, and Austin Peay III, Class of 1895, governor of Tennessee. Kentucky’s first governor, Isaac Shelby, served as the first chair of the Centre College board of trustees.
by Michael Strysick
Photo: Affirming to uphold the Kentucky Constitution and pledging that she had never fought a duel, Crit Luallen was sworn in as Kentucky’s 56th Lieutenant Governor in a private ceremony on Nov. 13, 2014. Photo courtesy of Kentucky Office of Creative Services.