The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects

Jerry Abramson, Louisville’s Mayor for Life

The long career of Jerry Edwin Abramson (b. 1946) took him from a small family grocery store in Louisville’s Smoketown neighborhood to City Hall, the Kentucky State Capitol, and eventually the West Wing of the White House. One of the most prominent politicians in Louisville’s history, Abramson holds several distinctions in city memory and politics: the first Jewish mayor of Louisville and the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history, earning him the local title “Mayor for Life.” Throughout three decades in municipal government, Abramson’s impact on Louisville has been profound, and his legacy endures in the modern landmarks, policies, and infrastructure of Kentucky’s largest city. In 2011, he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky under Steve Beshear and, in 2014, was appointed Deputy Assistant to the President and White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs under President Barak Obama.  

In 2020, Jerry and Madeline Abramson donated an extensive collection of papers and photographs to the Filson, documenting years of family and professional history. This exhibit provides highlights from the collections, life and work of Louisville’s Mayor for Life. Interested in learning more? Visit finding aids for the Abramson Papers and Photographs 

The Filson is tremendously grateful to Rabbi Stanley Miles for all his work arranging the Abramson collections and writing their biographical and contextual notes.  

In 2016 and 2017, Dr. Carol Ely interviewed Madeline and Jerry and Abramson for the Kentucky Jewish Oral History Project led by professors Jan Fernheimer and Beth Goldstein at the University of Kentucky Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History. The complete interviews are fully digitized and accessible. Jerry's interview can be found here, and Madeline's here. Links to these interviews are also included throughout the exhibit sections. 

Exhibit curated by Dorian Cleveland, Abby Glogower, and Danielle Spalenka