Dr. Luis Suarez Hernandez was honored by the Governor of Kentucky as a Kentucky Colonel in June 2023 which is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky and is the most well-known honorary colonelcies conferred by United States governors. US Presidents George Bush, Jimmy Carter, Lynden Johnson, Ronald Reagan are some others that have been conferred this honor of Kentucky Colonel.
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, contributions to Kentucky society, remarkable deeds, and outstanding service to a community, state, or the nation. The Governor of Kentucky bestows the honor of a colonel’s commission, by the issuance of letters patent.
In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, commissioned Kentucky Colonels are considered members of the Governor’s Staff and his honorary aides-de-camp, and as such are entitled to the style of ‘Honorable’ as indicated on their commission certificates. The commission and letters patent granted by the Governor and Secretary of State bestowing the title of Kentucky Colonel refers to the honoree as ‘Honorable’.
The honor has been given to a broad variety of notable people – including various celebrities, artists, writers, athletes, performers, business people, the US and foreign politicians, and members of foreign royal families – some of whom have no obvious connection to Kentucky. It has also been bestowed upon various people who are not generally considered especially notable – they have been people from “all walks of life”.
The tradition began in 1813 during the second term of Governor Isaac Shelby after he returned from leading the Kentucky Militia on a highly successful “War of 1812” campaign. He named one of his officers, Charles Todd, as an “aid-de-camp” on the Governor’s staff with the rank and grade of Colonel. Later governors commissioned Colonels to act as their protective guards; they wore uniforms and were present at most official functions. (Today’s Colonels are not required to perform such service.) Other governors continued this practice, and by the 1920s the Colonels’ ranks had grown considerably.
Today, 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 nation. Among the ranks of the Kentucky Colonels are distinguished leaders such as Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan and English Prime Minister Winston Churchill, volunteer firemen and teachers – people from all walks of life who have performed in an extraordinary manner.
In 1928, an effort began to organize the Colonels into “a great non-political brotherhood for the advancement of Kentucky and Kentuckians.” In 1932, the Honorable Order of the Kentucky Colonels was formally born. Today, the organization is incorporated as a charitable organization with by-laws directing it to be non-partisan, non-profit and dedicated to good works within the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Over the years, Colonels have contributed millions of dollars to worthy causes. In 2006, with voluntary donations from all 50 states and 35 nations, the Good Works Program Fund made grants totaling $1.5 million to 162 charitable and educational organizations. It marked the 16th consecutive year grants of at least $1 million had been made. In addition to their collective charitable efforts, Colonels are Kentucky’s ambassadors of goodwill and fellowship around the world.
The Governor serves as Commander-in-Chief of the Honorable Order. The 12 members of its board of trustees serve on a voluntary basis.