Freshly-spread dirt covered the cobblestones near the Pennsylvania State House.

It had been recently laid to mask the noises from carriage wheels and other traffic traveling near the state house, and on the grounds of the state house, guards had been posted.

It was May 25, 1787, and the air was insufferably hot and muggy, said Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr., setting the stage for the day that delegates first met to begin discussions which would eventually result in a new governing document for the country.

More than three months later, on Sept. 17, 1787, all but three of the delegates present for that meeting signed the U.S. Constitution, and the date is observed each year as Constitution Day, commemorating the signing of the document that is the supreme law of the United States.

"The Constitution was the product of a series of compromises," Minton said while speaking Thursday in the community room of the Hopkinsville-Christian County Public Library.

The chief justice was the featured guest during local celebrations for Constitution Day that also included the presentation of a proclamation by Hopkinsville Mayor Carter Hendricks and Christian County Judge-Executive Steve Tribble recognizing the state's chief justice.

The two officials declared Thursday as Chief Justice Minton Day in the community and encouraged residents to express their gratitude to Minton for his service to all Kentuckians.

Minton was introduced by Christian County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Self, who noted that the chief justice, among his contributions, has improved access to civil legal aid for the poor and, at the state level, implemented cost-saving measures throughout the judicial branch.

"Our guest speaker this morning is a man of great character," Self said of Minton, a former Cadiz resident and graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Law who now lives in Bowling Green. "At the end of the day, at the end of every day, he is a good and just man."

Minton on Thursday considered the words of former President Harry S Truman during an enshrining ceremony in 1952; that ceremony followed the transfer of the original final copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence to the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Truman declared that the documents in question at that time, including the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, were being enshrined for future ages.

"This magnificent hall" in the National Archives would exhibit them, he said, while the vault built beneath the hall would protect the documents "as safe from destruction as anything that the wit of modern man can devise," he said in his speech just two days after the transfer.

But Minton noted that the Constitution is preserved by the actions of each new generation.

He encouraged his listeners to study the stories of the delegates who created the Constitution and who were faithful to duty in their eras and to translate those stories into their own lives.

The "more perfect union" of the Constitution's preamble was created to secure liberty for U.S. citizens, he noted, pointing to the "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" which are the blessings of liberty. In turn, the powers to pursue such blessings are granted by the people.

"How do we preserve the pursuit of happiness?" he asked during the library's recent program on the Constitution. "Who will guard the pursuit of happiness today? No one will unless we do."

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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