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Joe Kernan
48th Governor of Indiana

In office
September 13, 2003 – January 10, 2005
Acting Governor: September 10–13, 2003
Lieutenant Kathy Davis
Preceded by Frank O'Bannon
Succeeded by Mitch Daniels
47th Lieutenant Governor of Indiana

In office
January 13, 1997 – September 13, 2003
Governor Frank O'Bannon
Preceded by Frank O'Bannon
Succeeded by Kathy Davis
Personal details
Born Joseph Eugene Kernan
April 8, 1946(1946-04-08) (age 73)
Chicago, Illinois
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Maggie Kernan
Residence South Bend, Indiana
Profession Businessman
Religion Roman Catholic
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1969–1974
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Joseph Eugene "Joe" Kernan (born April 8, 1946) is an American politician who became the 48th Governor of Indiana on September 13, 2003 upon the death of Frank O'Bannon. He was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1946. Kernan is a member of the Democratic Party. Prior to becoming the governor, he served as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and then as the 47th Lieutenant Governor of Indiana. He lost an election to serve a full term as governor of Indiana to former George W. Bush Office of Management and Budget director Mitch Daniels on November 2, 2004. Kernan returned to South Bend and retired from politics.

Early life and educationEdit

Joe Kernan graduated from St. Joseph's High School in South Bend, Indiana. He graduated in 1968 with a degree in Government from the University of Notre Dame, where he was a resident of Stanford Hall. Kernan played baseball at Notre Dame in 1967 and 1968.[1]


Kernan entered the United States Navy in 1969 and served as a Naval Flight Officer aboard the carrier USS Kitty Hawk. In May 1972, Kernan was shot down by the enemy while on a reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. He was held as a prisoner of war for 11 months. Kernan was repatriated in 1973 and continued on active duty with the Navy until December 1974. Kernan received the Navy Commendation Medal, two Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Political careerEdit

Kernan was elected mayor of South Bend in 1987, 1991, and 1995. In 1996, Kernan was elected as Indiana's Lieutenant Governor, and then re-elected in 2000. As lieutenant governor of Indiana, Kernan served as the president of the Indiana Senate, the director of the Indiana Department of Commerce, and as the commissioner of Agriculture.

Originally, Kernan declined to seek the governorship during the 2004 election, but decided to do so upon assuming the governorship after the death of Frank O'Bannon.

He was defeated by Mitch Daniels for a full four-year term in 2004.

Post-political careerEdit

After losing the election to Daniels, Kernan returned to private life and became president of the South Bend Silver Hawks baseball club. In July 2007, Kernan and Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard were appointed by Daniels to co-chair the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform.[2]


In 1974 he married his wife, Maggie.

See alsoEdit

  • List of Governors of Indiana


Political offices
Preceded by
Frank O'Bannon
Lieutenant Governor of Indiana
January 13, 1997 – September 13, 2003
Succeeded by
Kathy Davis
Preceded by
Frank O'Bannon
Governor of Indiana
September 13, 2003 – January 10, 2005
Succeeded by
Mitch Daniels

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