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Luke P. Blackburn passes away

Today in Masonic history Luke P. Blackburn passes away in 1887.

Luke P. Blackburn was an American physician, philanthropist and politician from Kentucky.

Blackburn earned his medical degree from Transylvania University, the first University in Kentucky. After receiving his degree he moved to Natchez, Mississippi.

In Mississippi Blackburn began practicing medicine. He was the first to create a successful quarantine of Yellow Fever. He would later start a hospital along the Mississippi for boatmen. He funded the first hospital with his own money. Later he would successfully lobby Congress to build similar hospitals along the Mississippi.

When the Civil War broke out Blackburn was to old to serve in the military. He was sympathetic to the Confederate cause and would support the cause financially and with his medical skills. He would travel to Bermuda, a location that was essential to Confederate blockade running, to combat a Yellow Fever outbreak.

His work in Bermuda would lead to accusations by a Confederate double agent, that he was plotting to infect the North with Yellow fever. According to the double agent Blackburn planned to send infected clothing and linens to the North. Although there was a considerable amount of evidence against Blackburn it was largely circumstantial. He was tried and acquitted by Canadian authorities in a Toronto court. The acquittal probably happened because many of the key witnesses were of questionable reliability. Regardless of whether the plot was real or not, it would have been destined to fail. It is now known that Yellow fever is transmitted by mosquito, not by contact.

Blackburn stayed in Canada briefly after his trial to avoid prosecution by U.S. authorities, he would never be arrested by U.S. authorities. In 1868 he returned to help fight another Yellow Fever outbreak along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. He would later work in several other communities in the South to help fight Yellow Fever.

Due to Blackburn's efforts to repair his reputation and his work with the Yellow Fever epidemic he was catapulted into the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. He would win the election and would become the first doctor to be governor of Kentucky. The next doctor elected as governor of Kentucky would not come until 2003.

Blackburn was a member of Landmark Lodge No. 41 in Versailles, Kentucky.