Born February 1, 1869, in Whitley County , political leader Caleb Powers was the son of Amos Powers, a farmer, and Elizabeth (Perkins) Powers. He was educated in local Knox County schools, then Union College, the Agricultural and Mechanical College (now the University of Kentucky ), and the U.S. Military Academy. Leaving West Point because of eyesight problems, according to his fine autobiography, My Own Story, Powers taught for a time, then graduated in 1894 from the law department of Northern Indiana Normal School at Valparaiso. He took a postgraduate course in law at Centre College in Danville.
Powers was elected school superintendent of Knox County as a Republican in 1893, was admitted to the bar the next year, and was reelected superintendent in 1897. His educational reforms helped bring him, at age thirty, his party's nomination and subsequent victory in 1899 as Kentucky secretary of state. The entire election was contested, however, and Powers brought in a "mountain army" to support his cause. At the end of January 1900, in the midst of the General Assembly's deliberations over the election of Republican William Sylvester Taylor as governor, Democratic gubernatorial candidate William Goebel was shot. Goebel, certified by the legislature as the winner of the election, died only days later. The assassin's shot was said to have been fired from Powers's office. Powers, who had been in another county at the time of the shooting, was arrested and indicted as an accessory to the murder. In a series of trials marked by partisan judicial rulings, packed juries, and some perjured testimony, he was convicted three times. In each case, however, the state's highest court reversed the decision. A fourth trial, which concluded in January 1908, ended in a deadlocked jury; six months later the Republican governor, Augustus Willson , pardoned Powers. After spending eight years in jail, Powers then spent as many in Congress, serving from March 4, 1911, to March 3, 1919. Declining renomination, he became assistant counsel for the U.S. Shipping Board in 1921.
In January 1896, Powers married Kentuckian Laura Rawlings; six months later she died of spinal meningitis. Powers died July 25, 1932, and was buried in Barbourville, Kentucky. He was survived by his second wife, Dorothy.