Former Gov. John Y. Brown Dies at 88

Former Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. has died at the age of 88, according to his family.

Brown, served as Kentucky’s 55th governor of the Commonwealth from 1979 until 1983. A statement from his children, Lincoln, Pamela, John the 3rd, Sissy and Sandy, confirmed Brown’s passing.

Our Dad, John Y. Brown Jr., not only dreamed the impossible dream, he lived it until the very end. His positive attitude and zest for life was unrivaled and allowed him to beat the odds many times over. Every day was an exciting adventure for him. He was a true Kentucky original who beamed with pride for his home state and its people. He had many prominent accomplishments, but most of all he loved his family with all of his heart, and we in turn loved him with all of our hearts. We are heartbroken by his passing, but find comfort in what he wrote in one of his final days, “I have never been so happy.”

Brown was born in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1933. He received a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from the University of Kentucky and served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1959 to 1965.

He first made his mark in the restaurant franchise industry by recognizing the appeal of fast fried chicken during the 1960s. As co-owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Inc., he established an international reputation by building KFC into the world’s largest fast-food service company, even bigger than McDonald’s, before selling in 1971, according to the National Governors Association.

He was also owner of two professional basketball teams: the Boston Celtics, and the Kentucky Colonels.

As Governor of Kentucky from 1979 to 1983, he reduced the budget by 22 percent and brought record commerce to the state. His work brought him the Democrat of the Year award and was made lifetime Honorary Treasurer of the Democratic Party. In 1984, Brown made a brief, bid for a U.S. Senate seat. In 1987, he ran for governor again but lost to Wallace Wilkinson.

Gov. Andy Beshear issued a statement on Brown’s passing.

“I am sad to share that former Governor John Y. Brown Jr. passed away yesterday,” said Gov. Beshear. “Gov. Brown was a remarkable leader who was committed to serving the people of Kentucky. He made our commonwealth a better place. Britainy and I are praying for his family and loved ones.”

Beshear directed that flags at all state office buildings be lowered to half-staff in Brown’s honor until sunset on the day of interment. The former Governor will lie in state in the rotunda of the Kentucky State Capitol.