Campus News

Abell Gift to UK Libraries Continues Legacy of Clements Family Giving Back

photo of Governor Earle C. Clements at desk
photo of 2017 Clements Award winners and Bess and Tyler Abell

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 9, 2017) When the National Archives and the University of Kentucky Libraries Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center present this year’s Earle C. Clements Innovation in Education Awards to three Central Kentucky history/civics educators at 4 p.m. today (Wednesday), at the Special Collections Research Center Great Hall, in the Margaret I. King Library Building, it will be just one more display of a legacy of giving back started by Clements and continued today by his daughter, Bess Clements Abell, and her family.

The Clements Award honors the life and career of Earle C. Clements and his lifelong commitment to education and public service. Clements’ political career included service as a county sheriff, clerk and judge; terms in the state senate and as governor; and terms in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, where he was a close colleague to future President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Made possible by a gift from Bess Clements Abell, Earle Clements' daughter and a member of the UK Libraries National Advisory Board, and her husband, Tyler, the Clements Award has been presented to the best Kentucky history/social studies/civics teachers annually since 2015.

But, the Clements Award is just one way the Abells are giving back. In 2007, the Abell family established the Earle C. Clements Graduate Research Fellowship at UK Libraries. And most recently, they made a $500,000 gift last year to establish the Earle C. Clements Memorial Endowment Fund to support UK Libraries' programs in the areas of public policy, government and archival research that preserve and promote the legacy of Earle C. Clements.

The Clements Memorial Endowment will be used to organize an Earle C. Clements lecture/symposium that will feature renowned speakers or scholars in the areas of public policy, government and archives and provide opportunities for Earle C. Clements graduate fellows or interns to present their research, while honoring Clements’ impact on 20th century public policy and government. The endowment will not only fund the lecture series, but it will also tie together the other Clements projects.

Bess Clements Abell is a native of Morganfield, Kentucky. She attended public schools in Kentucky and Washington, D.C., when her father served in Congress. Bess graduated from Ward-Belmont High School in Nashville, Tennessee. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from UK.

In 1960, Bess served on the Presidential Inaugural Committee. She became secretary to Lady Bird Johnson in 1960 and held that position until 1963 when she became White House social secretary. Between 1969 and 1976, Bess planned special events and served as executive director of the Democratic Governors’ Conference. In 1977, she became executive assistant to Joan Mondale in the Office of the Vice President. 

After several years of public service, Bess established Bess Abell Enterprises, a public relations firm in Washington, D.C. Since 1990, she and her husband, Tyler, have developed Merry-Go-Round Farm, a residential community near Washington, D.C. Bess and Tyler have two sons and four grandchildren.

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: #uk4ky #seeblue