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Pearl Carter Pace (January 25, 1896—January 1970) was the first woman elected sheriff in the Commonwealth of Kentuckymarker. Pearl Carter had been born into a Tompkinsvillemarker, Kentucky, family devoted to public service. She married Stanley Dan Pace, owner of a profitable roadbuilding company and moved to neighboring Cumberland Countymarker.

Research indicates that Pearl Carter Pace had a great philosophy of life: "Anybody can do anything he wants if he just wants enough to make the effort."

This philosophy took her into areas of life largely uncharted for rural, southern women. Of all her accomplishments, perhaps none catapulted her to fame more than her tenure as Cumberland County Sheriff, a position she held from 1937–1941. Although other American women had served in this capacity, Pace was the first Kentucky woman—and perhaps the first in the nation—to be elected to the post.

According to written accounts, Pace's husband, Stanley Dan Pace, had been "drafted" in 1933 to run for Cumberland County Sheriff by county citizens determined to control rum-running and organized crime during prohibition. He was elected—the first Democrat to hold that office since the 1800s. When his term ended, he was unable to succeed himself, so Pearl was drafted to run and was elected. Stan Pace died in a car accident, leaving Pearl Carter Pace to raise their children and to pursue her career in local, state, and national politics.

Pearl Carter Pace's father, James C. Carter, had served for forty years as Circuit Judge in South Central Kentucky. Pearl Carter Pace's and U.S. Congressman/Physician Tim Lee Carter's brother, James C. Carter, Jr., also served for forty years as Circuit Judge in South Central Kentucky, following in the footsteps of their father.

During World War II, Pearl's son Stanley Carter Pace, a fighter pilot and first Lieutenant, was taken as a prisoner of war by the German Reich. Upon returning from the war, Stan Pace put his aerospace engineering degree to work and later rose to the Chairmanship of TRW. After being pulled out of retirement in the 1980s, Stan Pace took up the job of restoring the giant defense contractor General Dynamics to credibility after grievous ethical lapses brought the company to the verge of dissolution.

Through Pearl Carter Pace's activism in the Republican party, she became a tireless supporter, as well as a dear and close friend of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1953 she brought national attention to Kentucky when President Eisenhower appointed her to the War Claims Commission (later the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission). Near the end of his administration, Eisenhower elevated her to Commission chairman, making Pearl Carter Pace the second highest ranking woman in his administration, next only to the Treasurer, and the first Kentucky woman appointed by a President to a national post.

Pearl Carter Pace was born in Tompkinsville in 1896. She became a school teacher; was a wife and mother; ran a successful business; and became very active in politics, serving in many local and state Republican Party positions and as the Republican National Committeewoman for Kentucky from 1948 to 1957.

Pearl Carter Pace died in 1970 at the home of her daughter, Patty-Nell Pace Keen in Burkesvillemarker. Pace's son-in-law, M.C. "Doc" Keen, was a sheriff and county judge of Cumberland Countymarker and ran unsuccessfully in the May 29, 1973, Republican primary for the Kentucky State Senate, having lost to Doug Moseley, a United Methodist minister. Pace is interred beside her husband at the former Pace-Allen Cemetery (now Grider Memorial) in Waterview in Cumberland County at a site overlooking Pace Farms.


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