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This article is about the honorary title. For other uses, see Kentucky colonel (disambiguation).
Official emblem of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.
Kentucky colonel is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Commissions for Kentucky colonels are given by the Governor and the Secretary of State to individuals in recognition of noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to a community, state or the nation. The sitting governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky bestows the honor of a colonel’s Commission, by issuance of letters patent.
2 The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels
3 Cultural influence
4 See also
6 External links
 HistoryThe title “Kentucky colonel” was first formalized in 1813, but was in informal use before that to refer to people with honored reputations, often related to military service in the American Revolution. It was often associated with landowners respected in their communities. When the Kentucky Militia was deactivated following the War of 1812, Governor Isaac Shelby commissioned Charles Stewart Todd, one of his officers in the campaign, as an aide-de-camp on the Governor’s Staff with the rank and grade of colonel. (Todd married Shelby’s youngest daughter two years later.)
Early colonels served military roles in the state. In the latter part of the 19th century, the position took on a more ceremonial function. Colonels in uniform attended functions at the Governor’s mansion and stood as symbolic guards at state events. By the late 19th century, the title had become more of an honorary one. But, since commissioned Kentucky colonels are considered members of the Governor’s Staff as his honorary aides-de-camp, all are entitled to the style of “Honorable” as indicated on their commission certificates. This is rarely used, however; Kentucky colonels are usually just referred to and addressed as “Colonel”. In writing, usage is Kentucky colonel when the term is not being used as a specific title for an individual.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, existing Kentucky colonels began to organize themselves, and the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels was established in 1932.
 The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels
After a person receives a commission, he or she is invited to join “The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels”, which is an independent, non-profit charitable organization formally founded in 1932. The Governor of Kentucky serves as the “Commander-in-chief” of the Honorable Order, and its board of trustees serves on a volunteer basis. The stated mission of this organization is to aid and promote the Commonwealth of Kentucky and its citizens. The organization raises money to support Kentucky charities and educational organizations, and to conduct other works that will help the citizens of Kentucky. The organization’s charitable efforts have also sometimes extended past the borders of the Commonwealth, such as contributing to natural disaster relief in other states. By 1979, annual donations exceeded $500,000, and by 1992, they exceeded $1 million.