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Kentucky’s dueling provision still draws laughs

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Minton tells Owen County Rotarians bill would have eliminate outdated language

By Molly Haines

Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. was the special guest at Monday’s Rotary Club meeting and gave a detailed history of fighting a duel with a deadly weapon in Kentucky.
Minton, who has served as the fifth Chief Justice of Kentucky since 2008, is the son of the late Dr. John D. Minton Sr. who retired from Western Kentucky University, having served there for many years as a history professor, administrator and its fifth president.
Before sitting on the supreme court, Minton Jr. practiced private law in Bowling Green, was the judge of the Warren Circuit Court from 1992 to 2003 and served as a judge on the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
“My dad was a history professor,” Minton Jr. said Monday. “I’ve always had a great interest in history because of that.”
Minton Jr. said that in March 2010, State Rep. Darryl Owens (D. 43rd) filed a bill to delete language dealing with dueling in the state oath of office, saying that it took away dignity from the public swearing-in ceremonies.
The oath in Section 228 of the state Constitution says, “… I, being a citizen of this State, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.”
According to Minton Jr., dueling predates Kentucky’s statehood, but laws were enacted as early as 1799 against dueling. Fines, along with a disqualification to hold public office for a period of time were imposed.
Between 1790 and 1867, 41 formal duels took place in the state of Kentucky. Some of the most popular figures in Kentucky’s history participated, including Henry Clay and historian and statesmen Humphrey Marshall.
The state’s fourth and present constitution retains the clause against dueling and Owens’ bill to delete the clause died in committee.
“For those of us that love the quirks of Kentucky, (the clause) is still there,” Minton said. “... Kentucky is one of the most interesting places to be.”