Colonel (title)

The honorary title of Colonel is conferred by several states in the US and certain military units of the Commonwealth of Nations. The origins of the titular colonelcy can be traced back to colonial and antebellum times when men of the landed gentry were given the title to commission companies or for financing the local militias without actual expectations of command. This practice can actually be traced back to the English Renaissance when a colonelcy was purchased by a lord or prominent gentleman but the actual command would fall to a lieutenant colonel, who would deputize its members for the proprietor.

United States

There is an aristocratic tinge to the social usage of the title "Colonel", which most often today designates a southern gentleman, and is archetypal of the southern aristocrat from days past. US states that have conferred this title as an honor include Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Alabama. Texas once bestowed the honor as well, today it confers the honor of Admiral in the Texas Navy. From 2005 to 2015 Illinois allowed for the Governor of the State to make appointments to the Governor's Regiment of Colonels, but no appointments were ever made. Many states have provisions in their articles or bills concerning state defense forces which allow the governor to grant honorary membership of the officer ranks. While the honor of colonel in this usage has no actual military role, the title did evolve from the military.
The highest honor of Tennessee is "Colonel, Aide-de-camp". Those who receive this award are recorded by the Secretary of State of Tennessee with those who have been commissioned into the State Guard and Tennessee National Guard.
Kentucky's famous colonelcy evolved from the personal bodyguards of the governor and now confers its recipients as honorary members on the governor's staff. Like Tennessee, Georgia's honorary titles give its members a rank as aides-de-camp on the governor's staff and is codified in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated 38-2-111, while the Alabama honor specifically makes one a colonel in the state militia.
"The Colonel" is also often a shorthand reference to restaurateur Colonel Harland David Sanders, the founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain of franchised restaurants, whom Ruby Laffoon, Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, commissioned a Kentucky colonel in 1935. Another famous "colonel" was Colonel Thomas Parker, Elvis Presley'smanager, who received his title from Governor Jimmie Davis of Louisiana as a reward for Parker's help in Davis's political campaign to be elected governor.
Many other prominent people in the South used the title going all the way back to before the American Revolutionary War, the title was used frequently in the thirteen colonies.


In Britain, Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth countries an honorary colonel may be appointed as an honor for distinguished citizens. Unlike the honorary or brevet colonel in the United States, the Commonwealth counterpart is actively involved in the life of the host regiment, including wearing military uniforms at prescribed occasions, and attending official functions.