Last updated: June 18, 2015
The second Confederate Governor of Kentucky, Richard Hawes was a politician for almost his entire life. One of 11 children born into an influential family, Richard Hawes started out his career with a law practice, but with a brother, cousin, and nephew who would all serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, it did not take him long to follow his family's path.
He joined the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1828 as a member of the Whig Party and then served in Congress, again as a Whig, from 1837 to 1841. After the dissolution of the Whig Party in the 1850s, Hawes became a Democrat and supported John C. Breckinridge in the presidential election of 1860.
While Hawes had pro-southern views and favored recognition of the Confederacy, he personally opposed secession for Kentucky, instead favoring armed neutrality for the state at the outbreak of the Civil War.
Kentucky's armed neutrality ended, however, in support of the Union in August 1861, forcing Hawes to flee to Virginia to avoid arrest. There he served as a Confederate major until October 1862, when he became the second provisional governor of Kentucky representing the Confederate cause, after his predecessor, Governor George W. Johnson, was killed during the Battle of Shiloh. As governor, he spent his time dealing with the government's ongoing financial problems and hoping for a successful Confederate invasion of Kentucky, since he was forced to secretly operate outside of the state's borders while it remained under Union control.
Hawes stayed in Virginia until when it was safe to return to his home state in May 1865. After the war, he resumed his law practice and spent his last years as a county judge in Bourbon County, Kentucky, before dying at the age of 80 in 1877.