A Wellston man was recently the recipient of the highest honor awarded by the Commonwealth of Kentucky – that of Kentucky Colonel – after having been nominated by two of his friends, both of whom have likewise received that same honor.

Wellston American Legion Post 371 members Hayden Oiler and George Edwards presented their friend and fellow legion member Jim McGhee with the honor Thursday afternoon, Sept. 3.

According to the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website, the Kentucky Colonel tradition began in 1813 during the second term of Gov. Isaac Shelby after he returned from leading the Kentucky Militia on a highly successful War of 1812 campaign. He named one of his officers, Charles Todd, as an "aide-de-camp" on the governor's staff with the rank and grade of Colonel. Later governors commissioned Colonels to act as their protective guards; they wore uniforms and were present at most official functions. (Today's Colonels are not required to perform such service.) Other governors continued this practice, and by the 1920s the Colonels' ranks had grown considerably.

Today, commissions for Kentucky Colonels are given by the governor and the secretary of state to men and women in recognition of noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to a community, state or the nation. Among the ranks of the Kentucky Colonels are distinguished leaders such as Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan and English Prime Minister Winston Churchill, volunteer firemen and teachers -- people from all walks of life who have performed in an extraordinary manner.

In 1928, an effort began to organize the Colonels into "a great non-political brotherhood for the advancement of Kentucky and Kentuckians." In 1932, the Honorable Order of the Kentucky Colonels was formally born.

Today, the organization is incorporated as a charitable organization with by-laws directing it to be non-partisan, non-profit and dedicated to good works within the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Over the years, Colonels have contributed millions of dollars to worthy causes. In 2006, with voluntary donations from all 50 states and 35 nations, the Good Works Program Fund made grants totaling $1.5 million to 162 charitable and educational organizations. It marked the 16th consecutive year grants of at least $1 million had been made. In addition to their collective charitable efforts, Colonels are Kentucky's ambassadors of goodwill and fellowship around the world.

The Governor serves as Commander-in-Chief of the Honorable Order. The 12 members of its board of trustees serve on a voluntary basis.

All nominations are now submitted online. To nominate someone to receive a commission as a Kentucky Colonel, visit secure.kentucky.gov/formservices/Governor/KentuckyColonelCommission.

While McGhee was receiving his honor Thursday, Oiler told his friend, “They did a background check on you and didn’t find anything.”

“They should’ve,” McGhee responded jokingly. “They must’ve just skimmed the top.”

On a more serious note, McGhee gave thanks to his friends for submitting his name for consideration.

“It’s an honor and I’m glad to be selected,” he said.