Webb, Benedict Joseph

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Pioneer publisher, editor, and historian; b. Bardstown, KY, Feb. 25, 1814; d. Louisville, KY, Aug. 2, 1897. He was the son of Nehemiah, a native of Pennsylvania and convert from Quakerism, and Clotilda (Edelin) Webb, of a Maryland Catholic family. Known as Ben J. Webb (sometimes erroneously called Benjamin Joseph), he was educated at St. Joseph's College, Bardstown (182128). A printer by trade, Webb early promoted the Catholic Advocate, Kentucky's first Catholic newspaper, for which he was publisher (183648). Later (185862) he was chief editor of the Guardian, the local organ of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and then editor of the revived Catholic Advocate (186972). In 1854 he attracted notice during the Know-Nothing (see knownothingism) troubles by a series of public letters defending Catholicism against George D. Prentice, editor of the Louisville Journal; the whole series was published as Letters of a Kentucky Catholic (1856). From 1867 to 1875 Webb served in the Kentucky Legislature as senator from the Louisville area. In 1884 he published The Centenary of Catholicity in Kentucky, a basic historical work, which demonstrates his personal acquaintance with the pioneer Church in Kentucky and with many of its clerical and lay leaders. Webb's close association with the early bishops and clergy of the Bardstown-Louisville diocese and his initiative in Catholic journalism and charitable organizations provided an example of lay leadership unusual in the rising American Church of the 19th century.

Bibliography: b. j. webb, The Centenary of Catholicity in Kentucky (Louisville 1884). j. s. johnston, "B. J. W., Kentucky Historian," The Filson Club Historical Quarterly 6 (1932) 205207.

[d. recktenwald]