Jim Bunning 1933-2017, Framer of Bourbon Heritage Month

Jim Bunning, Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher that gave us a perfect game on Father’s Day in 1964 and the U.S. Congressman that gave us S. RES. 294 in 2007 declaring September, “National Bourbon Heritage Month,” has passed away at the age of 85 (1931-2017.)

1964 – The Perfect Game and Bourbon

Bunning had an illustrious career in major league baseball. His career ran from 1955 through 1971 and earned him a spot in Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY in 1996. One of the many highlights of his career occurred June 21, 1964 while pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies when Bunning threw a perfect game against the New York Mets. It was the first regular-season perfect game since 1922.

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1964 was a good year for bourbon as well. It was May 4, 1964 that the U.S. Congress approved S. Con. Res. 19 (full text below) that declared “Bourbon whiskey as a distinctive product of the United States.”

Bunning Gets into Politics

A few years after retiring from baseball Bunning got into politics. He entered politics in his home state of Kentucky in 1977. He moved from local politics to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1986 and on to U.S. Senate in 1998. It was almost 10 years later that Bunning left his mark on the distilled spirits industry with the introduction and approval of “National Bourbon Heritage Month” on August 2, 2007.

Bourbon Declared “America’s Native Spirit”

It was August 2, 2007 that Bunning got S. Res. 294 (full text below) approved by the U.S. Congress designating September 2007 as “National Bourbon Heritage Month.” And the rest as they say is history. If you read the fine print of S. RES 294 you’ll find that the resolution introduced a new phrase, a phrase that is used as gospel today.

“Whereas Congress declared bourbon as ‘‘America’s Native Spirit’’ in 1964, making it the only spirit distinctive to the United States;”

Technically, the 1964 resolution doesn’t use the phrase, “America’s Native Spirit.” Bunning’s 2007 resolution introduces that phrase and wraps up his resolution with the text below.

Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) designates September 2007 as ‘‘National Bourbon Heritage Month’’;
(2) recognizes bourbon as ‘‘America’s Native Spirit’’ and reinforces its heritage and tradition and its place in the history of the United States; and
(3) recognizes the contributions of the Commonwealth of Kentucky to the culture of the United States.

And the rest as they say is history. RIP Jim Bunning, we hope you’re enjoying the Angel’s Share.

“You can make bourbon anywhere but, if you want to sell it, you better damn well make it in Kentucky.”
~ Parker Beam, Heaven Hill Master Distiller Emeritus, 1941-2017

Time to raise a glass to Jim, Parker and America’s Native Spirit. Cheers!

S. Con. Res. 19 Declares “Bourbon whiskey as a distinctive product of the United States.”

S. Res. 294 Declares “National Bourbon Heritage Month”

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