James Ben Ali Haggin: A king for all seasons
James Ben Ali Haggin was born in Kentucky, bearing a name almost as colorful as the life of his grandfather, Ibrahim Ben Ali, a Turk who converted to Christianity on the eve of his execution only to be freed, providentially, the next day, by what Ibrahim assumed to be divine intervention. The story of Haggin's maternal grandfather may have been apocryphal, but his paternal grandfather’s story was not—he was a founder of the city of Lexington and one of Kentucky’s earliest pioneers. However, it is James Ben Ali Haggin's story that is most incredible. Haggin, virtually unknown to the public, was wealthy as a rajah, as powerful as Vanderbilt, yet nameless as John Doe. He was born on December 9, 1822, at Harrodsburg, Kentucky, but grew up in Shelby where his father, Terah, practiced law.