Charles P. Farnsley, Politician and Champion for the Arts
This year marks the 60th anniversary of The Fund for the Arts – one of the nation’s oldest art united funds … and in this Et Cetera we honor the man who created it - former Louisville mayor and U.S. Congressman Charles P. Farnsley.
A native Louisvillian, Charles Farnsley had great love for his city.
He served as mayor from 1948 to 1953 and worked to improve the quality of life of its citizens. In fact, the Louisville Historical League lists his terms among the Top Historical Events in Louisville during the 1900s.
The Fund for the Arts was his initiative to sustain various arts organizations in the city, and under the fund groups such as the Louisville Orchestra flourished. This innovation is one of many that brought Farnsley and the city national attention.
Mayor Farnsley promoted the expansion of the Louisville Free Public Library, is credited with modernizing city government and helping to ease Louisville into racial desegregation.
Even his design for Louisville’s official flag, which first included the signature fleur-de-lis, was adopted in 1949. It was not replaced until 2003, when Louisville and Jefferson County governments merged.
Farnsley was also a U.S. Congressman from 1965 to 1967.
After politics, Farnsley’s activities included being a key figure in Louisville’s Urban Renewal … and creating Rebel Yell brand bourbon.
Charles P. Farnsley died of Alzheimer’s disease in 1990, but his cultural impact lives on.
In tribute, a sculpture of Farnsley sits along Louisville’s West Main Street.
More to note:
- Charles Rowland Peaslee Farnsley was born March 28, 1907. He was often referred to as “Charlie”.
- Trained as a corporate lawyer, Charles Farnsley practiced law in Louisville beginning in 1930. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Louisville. UofL is home to the Charles P. Farnsley papers and several of his oral histories.
- Farnsley was a Democrat and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Kentucky in 1940 (as an alternate), 1948 and 1952.
- He was seldom seen not wearing his signature string ties.
- He served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1936-1940.
- According to the Louisville Historical League (LHL), while in the Kentucky State House of Representatives Charles Farnsley helped pass the “Shively Law” (1938), which legislated how small cities were annexed. He was also a delegate to the Kentucky convention to ratify the 21st amendment (1933).
- Farnsley defeated incumbent Marion Gene Snyder for Kentucky’s Third District congressional seat in 1964. He served one term and did not seek re-election.
- He sought his first congressional seat in 1932, at the age of 25 … but he lost the election.
- Farnsley’s mayoral successor was Andrew Broaddus, for whom the Life Saving Station at the Louisville Wharf was renamed. Today that vessel is best known as the Belle of Louisville’s ticket office. This fact is worth noting because it was Farnsley, along with Jefferson County Judge Marlow Cook, who purchased The Belle (then called The Avalon) in the 1960s and brought her back from Cincinnati.
- Charles Farnsley was inducted into UofL’s College of Arts and Sciences Hall of Honor in 2007.
Check out our Louisville Life story on the centennial of the Louisville Free Public Library.
- Program 319
- Louisville Life features the exciting return of Wendy Whelan to the Louisville Ballet, the Louisville Visual Art Association's centennial, a new Louisville-centric music video from the Muckrakers and more. (#319)