John Harper (politician)

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John R. Harper
Kentucky State Representative from District 49 (suburban Bullitt County)
In office
January 1, 1985 – December 31, 1994
Personal details
Born(1930-05-03)May 3, 1930
Park Ridge, Cook County
Illinois, USA
DiedJune 15, 2001(2001-06-15) (aged 71)
Louisville, Kentucky
Resting placeResthaven Memorial Park in Shepherdsville, Kentucky
Political partyRepublican
Gubernatorial nominee, 1987
Spouse(s)Mary Catherine Wigginton Harper
ChildrenI. W. Harper (deceased)

Alex Harper

David Harper
Bullitt County, Kentucky
Alma materLouisville Male High School
ProfessionEngineer; Inventor
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Air Force
Battles/warsKorean War

John R. Harper (May 3, 1930 - June 15, 2001) was a five-term member of the Kentucky House of Representatives from Bullitt County and the 1987 Republican nominee for governor of Kentucky. Harper agreed to run for governor after the expected choice of party leaders, Lexington attorney Larry Forgy, surprisingly dropped out of the race because of fundraising problems. Harper lost to Democrat Wallace G. Wilkinson in a record landslide. Wilkinson carried 115 of Kentucky's 120 counties and won 504,367 votes (64.9 percent) to Harper's 273,035 (35.1 percent). Of the five counties Harper carried, one was his home county of Bullitt, and another was Wilkinson's county of residence, Fayette.[1]

A son of David Harper and the former Frances Freeland, John Harper was a native of the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, Illinois; the family subsequently moved to Louisville, where John Harper graduated from Louisville Male High School and was later named to the school's Hall of Fame. Harper was thereafter self-educated as an engineer and inventor, having held twenty-five patents, he served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. Harper and his wife, the former Mary Catherine Wigginton, had three sons, the late I. W. Harper, Alex Harper, and David Harper.[2]

Harper's first run for office came in 1981, when he lost a bid to become Bullitt County's first Republican judge-executive, but he returned in 1984 to claim the House seat for the first of his five terms.

In 1994, he was elected Bullitt County Judge/Executive, a historic victory as the first Republican to win that office, just as he had been the first Republican to win his House seat. Harper served only one term as county judge and declined to run for a second in 1998 because of declining health. After Harper's death in Louisville, his widow, Mary, won her husband's former House seat in 2002 and was re-elected to a second term in 2004.

Harper died in Louisville at the age of seventy-one. A Roman Catholic, he is interred at Resthaven Memorial Park in Shepherdsville. Thereafter, the Kentucky House of Representatives passed a resolution to honor Harper.


  1. ^ R. Harper
  2. ^ "A Resolution in Honor of John Harper". Retrieved March 13, 2012.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jim Bunning
Republican nominee for Governor of Kentucky
Succeeded by
Larry Hopkins