Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Tracy Campbell


This project focuses on the role of race in the construction of modern conservatism by examining the career of A. B. “Happy” Chandler. As governor of Kentucky, Chandler dedicated funds to send Black students to graduate school and sent the National Guard to protect Black students integrating all-white high schools, even threatening to declare martial law if anti-integrationists were to resort to violence. When he became the commissioner of Major League Baseball, he supported the breaking of the color barrier and allowed Jackie Robinson to enter the league. Chandler further promised to punish those who hurled racial slurs at Robinson or protested against integration. Why, my dissertation asks, would Chandler also oppose multiple anti-poll tax bills, vote against antilynching legislation, and eventually adopt the politics of law and order?

I argue that Chandler was central to the development of “colorblind” conservatism. Chandler was often willing to dismantle legal segregation, particularly when attempting to make his state more attractive to the businesses flooding from the North to the Sunbelt in the postwar years. He put his focus on keeping state control of election machinery and policing, rather than overtly racial policies. By the 1960s, Chandler ultimately broke with the Democratic Party and supported Republican candidates who pushed law and order policies and speaker bans in universities. My dissertation examines how southern conservatives shifted the rhetoric around segregation from hardline appeals to racism to constitutional appeals to “states’ rights,” “freedom of contract,” and “law and order.” I argue that conservatives developed a “colorblind” platform that could win national elections by attracting more moderate elements, such as Chandler, while still protecting white supremacy.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

Clinton Jackson and Evelyn Coley Award, Alabama Historical Association, 2022

Charles P. Roland Fellowship, University of Kentucky, 2022

Stuart A. Rose Library Short-Term Fellowship, Emory University, 2022-2023

Bryan Dissertation Fellowship, University of Kentucky, 2023

Available for download on Wednesday, April 15, 2026