Martha Layne Collins

Martha Layne Collins
Martha Layne Collins, governor of Kentucky, Nov 8, 1986.jpg
56th Governor of Kentucky
In office
December 13, 1983 – December 8, 1987
LieutenantSteve Beshear
Preceded byJohn Y. Brown Jr.
Succeeded byWallace Wilkinson
48th Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
In office
December 11, 1979 – December 13, 1983
GovernorJohn Y. Brown Jr.
Preceded byThelma Stovall
Succeeded bySteve Beshear
Personal details
BornMartha Layne Hall
(1936-12-07) December 7, 1936 (age 81)
Bagdad, Kentucky, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Bill Collins
EducationLindenwood University
University of Kentucky (BS)

Martha Layne Collins (née Hall; born December 7, 1936) is an American former businesswoman and politician from the U.S. state of Kentucky; she was elected as the state's 56th governor from 1983 to 1987, the first woman to hold the office and the only one to date. Prior to that, she served as the 48th Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, under John Y. Brown, Jr. Her election made her the highest-ranking Democratic woman in the U.S. She was considered as a possible running mate for Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential election, but Mondale chose Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro instead.

After graduating from the University of Kentucky, Collins worked as a school teacher while her husband finished a degree in dentistry. She became interested in politics, and worked on both Wendell Ford's gubernatorial campaign in 1971 and Walter "Dee" Huddleston's U.S. Senate campaign in 1972. In 1975, she was chosen secretary of the state's Democratic Party and was elected clerk of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. During her tenure as clerk, a constitutional amendment restructured the state's judicial system, and the Court of Appeals became the Kentucky Supreme Court. Collins continued as clerk of the renamed court and worked to educate citizens about the court's new role.

Collins was elected lieutenant governor in 1979, under Governor John Y. Brown, Jr. Brown was frequently out of the state, leaving Collins as acting governor for more than 500 days of her four-year term. In 1983, she defeated Republican Jim Bunning to become Kentucky's first woman governor. Her administration had two primary focuses: education and economic development. After failing to secure increased funding for education in the 1984 legislative session, she conducted a statewide public awareness campaign in advance of a special legislative session the following year; the modified program was passed in that session. She successfully used economic incentives to bring a Toyota manufacturing plant to Georgetown, Kentucky in 1986. Legal challenges to the incentives – which would have cost the state the plant and its related economic benefits – were eventually dismissed by the Kentucky Supreme Court. The state experienced record economic growth under Collins' leadership.

At the time, Kentucky governors were not eligible for reelection. Collins taught at several universities after her four-year term as governor. From 1990 to 1996, she was the president of Saint Catharine College near Springfield, Kentucky. The 1993 conviction of Collins' husband, Dr. Bill Collins, in an influence-peddling scandal, damaged her hopes for a return to political life. Prior to her husband's conviction it had been rumored that she would be a candidate for the U.S. Senate, or would take a position in the administration of President Bill Clinton. From 1998 to 2012, Collins served as an executive scholar-in-residence at Georgetown College.[1]

Early life

Martha Layne Hall was born December 7, 1936, in Bagdad, Kentucky,[2] the only child of Everett and Mary (Taylor) Hall.[3] When Martha was in the sixth grade, her family moved to Shelbyville, Kentucky, and opened the Hall-Taylor Funeral Home.[3] Martha was involved in numerous extracurricular activities both in school and at the local Baptist church.[3] Her parents were active in local politics, working for the campaigns of several Democratic candidates, and Hall frequently joined them, stuffing envelopes and delivering pamphlets door-to-door.[4]

Martha attended Shelbyville High School where she was a good student and a cheerleader.[5] She frequently competed in beauty pageants and won the title of Shelby County Tobacco Festival Queen in 1954.[5] After high school, Hall enrolled at Lindenwood College, then an all-woman college in Saint Charles, Missouri (It is now a co-ed university).[5][6] After one year at Lindenwood, she transferred to the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky.[6] She was active in many clubs, including the Chi Omega social sorority, the Baptist Student Union, and the home economics club, and was also the president of her dormitory and vice president of the house presidents council.[5]

In 1957, Hall met Billy Louis Collins while attending a Baptist camp in Shelby County.[3] He was a student at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky, about 13 miles from Lexington; he and Hall dated while finishing their degrees.[3] Hall earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics in 1959.[6] Having won the title of Kentucky Derby Festival Queen earlier that year, she briefly considered a career in modeling.[3] Instead, she and Collins married shortly after her graduation.[3] While Billy Collins pursued a degree in dentistry at the University of Louisville, Martha taught at Seneca and Fairdale high schools, both located in Louisville.[7] While living in Louisville, the couple had two children, Steve and Marla.[6]

In 1966, the Collinses moved to Versailles, Kentucky, where Martha taught at Woodford County Junior High School.[4] The couple became active in several civic organizations, including the Jaycees and Jayceettes and the Young Democratic Couples Club.[5] Through the club, they worked on behalf of Henry Ward's unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 1967.[5]