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John Milton Elliott (May 16, 1820March 26, 1879) was an Americanmarker lawyer and politician from Prestonsburg, Kentuckymarker. He represented Kentuckymarker in the United States House of Representatives from 1853 until 1857 and served in the First Confederate Congress during the American Civil War.

Life and career

Elliott was born in Scott County, Virginiamarker on May 16, 1820 to John and Jane Elliott. The family moved to Kentucky during his childhood, with his father serving two terms in the Kentucky General Assembly. In 1841 he began practicing law in Prestonsburg, Kentucky. He was elected to the Kentucky legislature in 1847. He later followed it with a stint in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1853-1857.

In 1861 he went back to the Kentucky legislature, but was expelled by Judge Bland Ballard on December 21, 1861 for giving aid to the Confederate States of America. He then turned his loyalties to the Confederacy, helping to form the Confederate government of Kentucky, and served in its Senate as a Senator from Kentucky.

After the war, he moved to Bath County, Kentuckymarker. In 1876, Elliott began serving on the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

Murdered by a fellow judge

On March 26, 1879 Judge Elliott and fellow jurist Thomas Hines left the Kentucky State House, when they met a judge from Henry County, Kentuckymarker, Colonel Thomas Buford. Buford's late sister had lost her land to pay back a debt of $20,000; Elliott had ruled against her in a court proceeding in which she had attempted to save the property.

After Hines had turned and walked away from Elliott, Buford asked Elliott whether he wanted to go on a snipe hunt, then shot him point-blank with a double-barreled shotgun filled with twelve buckshot, as he had sworn on his sister's grave he would do. Hines inspected the body as Buford turned himself in to a deputy sheriff who had come to see where the shotgun blast came from.

The assassination made news throughout the country. The New York Times opined that the murder "could scarcely have taken place in any region calling itself civilized except Kentucky, or some other Southern state".


Buford offered a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity during his trial. The jury did indeed find him insane, after an initial 6–6 deadlock. Buford was sent to the Central Kentucky Insane Asylum in Anchorage, Kentuckymarker, but would eventually escape in 1882 to Indianamarker, where he was unable to be extradited. He voluntarily returned to the asylum in 1884 and died on February 12, 1885.

Elliott was buried at the state cemetery in Frankfort, Kentuckymarker. His wife had a statue erected in his honor at the courthouse of Boyd County, Kentuckymarker in Catlettsburg, Kentuckymarker. It is debated whether Elliott County, Kentuckymarker is named for Elliott or his father.


  1. Smith, Green Clay. Assassination of Judge John M Elliott Famous Kentucky Tragedies and Trials (The Baldwin law book company, incorporated, 1916) pg. 222
  2. Kleber, John E. The Kentucky Encyclopedia. (University Press of Kentucky). pg. 291.
  3. Smith pg. 205, 210
  4. Kleber pg. 291
  5. Smith pg. 210, 220, 221
  6. Smith pg. 222

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