6 November 2014
Austin Peay was born on June 1, 1876 near Hopkinsville Kentucky. Austin Peay Sr. and Cornelia Leavell Peay were his parents. He started his college life at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. Then he went on to Centre College, in Danville Kentucky, and received his law degree. After graduating, Peay married Sally Hurst of Clarksville. The couple had two children, Amaryllis and Austin. Austin Peay worked at his law practice for 6 years. Then in 190, he was elected to the TNs House of Representatives to represent Montgomery County. He ran against Gen. Lawrence D. Tyson for the speaker of the house, but lost. He also served two terms in the Tennessee Legislature and was the chairman of the Democratic state executive committee.
At age 30, Austin Peay ran for governor and lost in the year 1918. He refused to run again in1920. However, when the states financial situation became worse, he decided to run again in 1922. Peay stressed tax reform, the completion of the long-delayed state highway system, the lengthening of the public school term, and the building of more schools. The people loved Peay. He promised everything the people wanted done. In November 1922 Austin Peay became governor of Tennessee.
As governor of Tennessee, Peay had a lot of work to do. He had inherited a state that was over three million dollars in debt. Tennessee’s educational system ranked last in teacher salaries and forty-third in per-pupil disbursement. Adult illiteracy was also high. The state only had two hundred forty four miles of paved highways and the bridges covered few of its major rivers. Peay had a lot of issues to fix and in a hurry.
Peay went straight to work as governor He combined all the agencies, putting eight people in charge so that the state would not have a spending deficit each year and not go into debt. The back tax machine was then abolished. Peay then went to work on the roads and educational system. By the time of his death he had expanded the roads from two hundred forty four miles to over four thousand miles. In education, Peay sponsored legislation that created a state salary schedule, standardized licensing requirements for teachers, and created an equalization fund that promised an eight-month school year in most public elementary schools. Peay also increased funding for the University of Tennessee. Peay then convinced the new legislature to pass the tobacco tax. Support from the tobacco tax made the general education bill possible.
Peay promoted public health and conservation. He certified the State Department of Health and more than doubled the department’s budget for public immunization, sanitation, and disease…