From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Combs, Richard "Tallow Dick"

Richard Combs, a barber, was from Beattyville, KY, born around 1864. He was one of the ten men initially charged with complicity in the murder of William Goebel in 1900. Richard Combs was lodged in the Georgetown, Ky jail [source: 1900 U.S. Census]. R. C. O Benjamin was Combs' lawyer.

While on his deathbed, Goebel had been named Governor of Kentucky following a very controversial and contested governor's race. Richard Combs and Mason Hockersmith were the only African Americans linked to the murder; there was testimony during the trial that two Negroes had been hired to kill Goebel. W. H. Watts, a Negro janitor of the Adjunct General's Office in the Kentucky Executive Building, also testified in the case [it had only been since 1872 that Negro testimony was accepted in a Kentucky court].

Goebel had won the Democratic nomination for governor in 1899, was shot and mortally wounded January 30, 1900, while outside the Kentucky State Capitol Building, and he died February 3, 1900. A senator from Kenton County, KY, he was sometimes described as ruthless, at other times as a reformer. As a reformer, he pushed for a number of changes, including more rights for women and Negroes, and he wanted to do away with lotteries and pool halls.

For more see William Goebel in the Kentucky Encyclopedia; "Goebel suspects indicted," from Frankfort, KY in the New York Times, 04/19/1900, p. 1; "Prison cell for Powers," New York Times, 08/19/1900, p. 1; The First New Dealer, by U. Woodson; and V. Hazard, "The Black testimony controversy in Kentucky, 1866-1872," The Journal of Negro History, vol.58, issue 2 (April 1973), pp. 140-165.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Lee County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Franklin County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Scott County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Beattyville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Frankfort, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Georgetown, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Benjamin, R. C. O.
NKAA Source: The Kentucky encyclopedia
NKAA Source: The New York times (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The first new dealer, William Goebel; his origin, ambitions, achievements, his assassination, loss to the state and nation; the story of a great crime
NKAA Source: The Journal of Negro history (periodical)

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  African American Lawyers/Attorneys, Kentucky, 1880-1940: Court Cases
NKAA Entry:  Saloon and Bar Employees in Kentucky, 1870-1920

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Combs, Richard "Tallow Dick",” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed September 29, 2020,

Last modified: 2019-05-15 19:24:28