The legendary Gatewood Galbraith, colorful Kentucky political figure known as “The Last Free Man In America,” died quietly in his sleep at home Tuesday night. Gatewood, a perennial candidate for public office and a lifelong marijuana advocate, changed the cannabis movement forever with his homespun wisdom and plain-spoken honesty.
“That was his church,” Riley said. “That’s what he did every Sunday and no one really knew about that.”
According to Riley, Galbraith discovered cannabis when someone recommended he try it to help with his asthma. He had also suffered from emphysema, Riley said.
“Jane and I were shocked and saddened to learn of Gatewood’s passing,” said Gov. Beshear. “He was a gutsy, articulate and passionate advocate who never shied away from a challenge or a potential controversy.
“His runs for office prove he was willing to do more than just argue about the best direction for the state — he was willing to serve, and was keenly interested in discussing issues directly with our citizens,” Beshear said. “He will be missed.”
”He was a real inspiration,” said Paul Stanford of the Campaign for the Regulation and Restoration of Hemp (CRRH), who had known Gatewood for many years.
“He taught us in his eloquent oratory and writings about the suppression of hemp and the synthetic subversion of our economy,” Stanford told Toke of the Town Wednesday morning.
“I have lost a friend and mentor. He is greatly missed.”
In addition to being a vocal advocate for marijuana legalization, Galbraith proposed a freeze on college tuition and a $5,000 grant to help high school graduates for college. He was endorsed by the United Mine Workers, the first time that union had ever backed an independent candidate.
According to House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg), Gatewood “had a commonsense way of looking at problems at government. Even though some of his ideas may have been far-fetched, others were certainly worth considering.”
But in his most recent run for the governor’s mansion, Galbraith said, as far he was concerned, his views were pretty simple.
“I’m a Barry Goldwater conservative,” he told the Courier-Journal last October. “I want the government to stay out of my life unless I represent a threat to someone else or their property.”
“My view is that the government’s role should be to uplift, enlighten, educate and ennoble the citizen, not oppress them with taxation and intrusive laws,” Galbraith wrote on his campaign website.
One of a Kind
Gatewood was born on January 23, 1947 in Carlisle, Kentucky. He graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1974 and from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1977. His law practice in Lexington focused on criminal law and personal injury civil actions.
Gatewood got lots of attention over the years as a proponent for the legalization of marijuana. In the 1990s, he wore a hemp suit and traveled, often with Willie Nelson, in his “Hempmobile,” a used Mercedes-Benz that ran on hempseed oil.
That inspired Nelson’s own hemp biofuel company, reports Michael Bachara at Hemp News
“He’s smart and funny and he speaks the truth,” Nelson said of Gatewood. “He’s a champion for the farmers and the working men and women of the world.”
Throughout his career, Galbraith never stopped speaking the truth. At last year’s annual Fancy Farm political picnic in August, he unleashed one of his fieriest speeches ever.
Galbraith ran five times for Kentucky governor over the decades, three times as a Democrat, once on the Reform ticket and last year as an independent. He also ran unsuccessfully for state agriculture commissioner, attorney general and Congress, reports the Courier-Journal.
No official cause of death has been released; WKYT
reports there will be no autopsy. The Fayette County coroner said he had been dealing with illness. “He’s had congestion and a cold for the past week and he’s been on antibiotics,” coroner Gary Ginn said. “He died in his sleep and everything appears natural.”
Galbraith is survived by three daughters.
The Last Free Man In America
Gatewood’s 2004 autobiography, The Last Free Man In America: Meets The Synthetic Subversion compellingly tells the story of his life.
”Oh, there is little doubt in my mind that I can make various segments of my life interesting to certain markets,” Galbraith wrote in the introduction to the book (and I can just see him smiling when he wrote that). “I mean, Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll will always sell, especially when wrapped around politics. And, let’s face it, my history as a ‘Child of the 60s’ allowed me to experience all of it.”
“An examination of my own life in detail minute enough to try and explain my past actions, intimate and otherwise, has, until recently, been discomforting to me,” Galbraith wrote. “The Good Lord knows that I’ve made more than my share of mistakes. In fact, if trial and error is the best teacher, I ought to be the smartest guy around.”
Gatewood was a famous appreciator of women (whom, by the way, he advocated arm themselves; he called that “the great equalizer”).
|My signed copy of “The Last Free Man In America” is one of my most cherished possessions
When he wrote his book seven years ago, he had this to say on that subject: “57. Hell. That ain’t old. The way I see it, I’m at that age where the girl, her mother and her grandmother all look good to me.”
Galbraith wrote that, in his view, he had accomplished three out of the four resolutions he made to himself back in 1971.
“I did go to college. (check) I did become an attorney. (check) I did run for Governor (oops) (oops) and (oops). I did change the laws on marijuana in Kentucky. Well, let’s be fair here. The laws have been the same since 1909 and 1915. All I did was subject them to an analysis benefiting the people.”
“I’ve got between 10 and 20 years left to get something done for the People,” Gatewood wrote seven years ago. “I don’t think I’m going to last much longer than that. And I’ve got to consider what I want my ending to be.
“Do I want to wait around until I finally suffocate from my condition of emphysema, hooked to an oxygen tank and gasping for air after a simple walk?
“What are my options?
“But I know it’s too early to be figuring that,” he wrote. “I’ve got some good years left in me and I need to educate a lot more people about their freedom. Their freedom is my freedom. And my children’s freedom. And their children’s freedom.”
Here’s the last post Gatewood Galbraith ever made to Facebook. Yes, if you must know, I am crying.