Caleb Powers was born in Whitley County, Kentucky, on February 1, 1869. He was the son of Amos Powers, a farmer, and Elizabeth (Perkins) Powers. He was educated in the Knox County public schools before studying at Union College and the Agricultural and Mechanical College (later the University of Kentucky). In 1891, he had to leave the U. S. Military Academy because of poor eyesight. He later studied in the law department at Northern Indiana Normal School at Valparaiso, Indiana, and graduated in 1894. Also, in 1894 he was admitted to the bar. He took a postgraduate course in law at Centre College.
Powers began practicing law in Barbourville. He was elected as a Republican Superintendent of Public Schools in Knox County, serving from 1894 to 1899. His educational reforms helped secure his nomination and election as Secretary of State, at age thirty, in 1899. The election was contested, however, and the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, William Goebel, was assassinated.
Powers was arrested and indicted as an accessory to murder. He was convicted in a series of three highly partisan, controversial trials. A fourth trial in January 1908 resulted in a deadlocked jury. Six months later Republican Governor Augustus Willson pardoned Powers. He had served eight years in jail, and then he spent as many years in Congress, from March 1911 to March 1919. He was not a candidate for reelection in 1918.
He moved to Washington, D.C., in 1921 and served as assistant counsel for the U. S. Shipping Board until his death in Baltimore on July 25, 1932. He is buried in the City Cemetery.
Caleb Powers married Laura Rawlings in January 1896; she died six months later.
Upon his death, he was survived by his second wife, Dorothy, his daughter Elsie, two sisters, Mrs. Rebecca Green and Mrs. M. P. (Katherine) Lewallen, one brother, John Powers, and one half-sister, Mrs. Nancy Blakely Croley.
"My Own Story by Caleb Powers," (1908);
"Kentucky Encyclopedia," (1992);
"Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1949," (1950);
Obituary, "Mountain Advocate," [Barbourville], July 29, 1932.
"Assassination at the State House: The Unsolved Mystery of Kentucky's Governor Goebel," Ron Elliott, McClanahan Publishing House, 1995.