Born January 9, 1967, in Denver, Colorado, Matt Bevin was the second of six children born to Avery and Louise Bevin. He grew up in the rural town of Shelburne, New Hampshire, in a small farmhouse heated by wood-fired stoves. His father worked at a wood mill, and his mother worked part-time in a hospital admissions department. The family raised livestock and grew much of their own food. At age 6, Bevin made money by packaging and selling seeds to his neighbors. He credits his involvement in 4-H, where he served as President of the local and county chapters and as a member of the state teen council, with developing his public speaking and leadership skills. He was also involved with the county's Dairy Club.
Initially attending a small Christian school, in tenth grade Bevin enrolled as a student at Gould Academy, a private high school across the state line in Bethel, Maine. He paid his tuition through a combination of financial aid and wages from an on-campus dishwashing job and various summer jobs. After graduation, he attended Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, on a partial ROTC scholarship. During his matriculation, he studied abroad in Japan and became fluent in Japanese. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in East Asian Studies in 1989.
After taking eight weeks off to complete a 3,800-mile (6,100 km) bicycle ride from Oregon to Florida, Bevin enlisted in the United States Army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. In 1990, he completed a six-week Junior Officer Maintenance Course at Fort Knox in Kentucky. He later commented that the area reminded him of where he grew up, and that if he had a chance to raise a family there, he would like to do so. He was assigned to the 25th Field Artillery Regiment of the Army's 5th Mechanized Infantry Division at Fort Polk in Louisiana. During his assignment, he also trained at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, completing 40 credit hours of Central Michigan University coursework offered on base. He rose to the rank of captain – earning the Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Parachutist Badge, and Army Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster – before joining the Army Reserve in 1993. He left the Individual Ready Reserve in 2003.
Less than three weeks before the primary, Comer's former girlfriend told the Courier-Journal in a letter that Comer had abused her physically and mentally in 1991 and that he had accompanied her to an abortion clinic. Other newspapers, including the Lexington Herald-Leader, which citied the Courier-Journal, then reported the allegations. The Lexington Herald-Leader had reported earlier that the Lexington-area Blogger who had been publishing stories about the allegations for months had been in contact with the husband of Heiner's running mate, K. C. Crosbie.
After leaving active duty in 1993, Bevin worked as a financial consultant for SEI Investments Company in Pennsylvania and Boston, then served as a vice President with Putnam Investments. In 1999, he was offered a stake in National Asset Management and moved to Kentucky to take the job. After the firm was sold in 2003, Bevin recruited a group of managers from National City Corp. to found Integrity Asset Management. The company was handling more than $1 billion in Investments when Bevin sold it to Munder Capital Management of Michigan in 2011.
While stationed at Fort Polk, Bevin went on a blind date with his Future wife, Glenna. The two married in 1996 and had six children. In 2003, their oldest child, 17-year-old daughter Brittiney, was killed in a car accident near the family's home. In memory of their daughter, the Bevins created Brittiney's Wish, a non-profit organization that funds domestic and international mission trips for high school students, and started an endowment that allowed Louisville's Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to open its Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization in 2012.
Conway continued McConnell's line of attack on Bevin's finances, specifically the issue of delinquent taxes. While McConnell's charges involved delinquent taxes against Bevin Brothers Manufacturing, Theo Keith of Louisville's WAVE reported in June that Bevin had been late at least 10 times paying property taxes on his vacation homes in Maine and Louisiana between 2002 and 2009. He further reported in July that Bevin's company, Integrity Holdings, also had multiple past delinquency issues. In total, Keith estimated that Bevin had paid about $1,800 in penalties for late tax payments. Bevin became irritated with Keith's reporting and refused to answer questions from him at subsequent press conferences; he did not buy ads on WAVE, despite running ads on Louisville's other three network broadcast stations. The Associated Press' Adam Beam eventually reported that Bevin had paid his taxes late on 30 different occasions. In an October interview with Beam, Bevin said, "Sometimes you do pay it late and you pay interest on having paid it late. But you pay the taxes. ... You do this all the time in Business." He added that his critics "could have done just as breathless a story of all the times I paid my taxes early and gotten a discount on it." He also reiterated that, as of the time of the interview, he had paid all of his taxes: "Do I actually owe taxes to anyone, anywhere? The answer is no."
McConnell launched ads accusing Bevin of taking taxpayer bailouts, citing his acceptance of state grants to rebuild Bevin Brothers. Bevin responded with ads accusing McConnell of voting for higher taxes, government bailouts, increases in the debt ceiling, and confirmation of liberal judicial nominees. McConnell's next ad featured Bevin telling an audience "I have no tax delinquency Problem, nor have I ever," then claimed his businesses had failed to pay taxes eight times and Bevin was late on a tax payment on his $1.2 million vacation home in Greenwood, Maine, in 2007. PolitiFact.com rated the ad "Mostly False", saying that Bevin Brothers incurred the delinquent taxes in 2008 and the second quarter of 2009, when the extent of Bevin's involvement with the company was "unclear". Regarding the vacation home, PolitiFact noted that Bevin's escrow company changed in 2007, and the new company failed to pay the property taxes on the home from escrow on time. Town records show that the taxes were paid by February 2009, and Bevin had paid them on-time every year before and after 2007. McConnell's third ad in as many weeks targeted Bevin for falsely claiming on his LinkedIn page that he attended a seminar affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The three-year program, which Bevin attended from 2006 to 2008, was actually sponsored by the MIT Enterprise Forum, which is technically unaffiliated with MIT. The discrepancy was first reported by The Hill in March 2013, and was clarified on his LinkedIn page at that time.
In 2008, Bevin took over management of the struggling Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Company of East Hampton, Connecticut. Founded in 1832 by Bevin's great-great-great grandfather and remaining in the family continuously since, Bevin Bros. is the last American company that exclusively manufactures bells. By 2011, the company owed $116,000 in delinquent taxes and was named the number one delinquent tax firm in East Hampton. Collectively, the Bevins decided that Matt was the only family member with the Business acumen and financial wherewithal to keep the company solvent. In 2011, Bevin became the company's President. Within a year, he paid the company's delinquent taxes; he subsequently made the company profitable and raised his employees' pay.
Bevin said that in 2011, Mitch McConnell recruited him to challenge incumbent Democrat John Yarmuth to represent Kentucky's 3rd congressional district in 2012. McConnell's chief of staff said Bevin requested the meeting and McConnell never asked Bevin to enter the race. Ultimately, Bevin and his advisors decided that legislative redistricting had made Yarmuth's district unwinnable for a Republican, and Bevin chose not to run.
A lightning strike sparked a fire that destroyed the factory on May 27, 2012. Although he carried little more than liability insurance on the Business and his losses were compounded by looters who stole 4,500 bells, Bevin vowed to rebuild, telling the Hartford Courant, "I'm a Bevin, and Bevins make bells." In late June 2012, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced that Bevin Brothers would receive $100,000 in grants from the state's Small Business Express program to assist in the rebuilding effort. Flanked by Senator Richard Blumenthal, Bevin announced in July 2012 that he would sell souvenirs including T-shirts, and bells and bricks salvaged from the gutted factory, to raise additional funds for rebuilding. Working from a temporary location, the company resumed limited production in September 2012.
Two weeks after filing suit against Planned Parenthood, Bevin sued EMW Women's Clinic in Lexington, claiming that it was an unlicensed abortion facility. The clinic had been operating without a license under an exemption granted to private physician's offices, but an inspection of the clinic – the first conducted since 2006 – revealed that the facility performed abortions exclusively. Inspectors also reported "several unsafe and unsanitary conditions" including the presence of expired medications. EMW ceased performing abortions March 9, pending the outcome of the lawsuit. On March 18, Fayette County Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone declined to issue a cease and desist order to EMW, finding that the first trimester abortions performed there "do not require sedation or the services of an anesthesiologist", suggesting that the clinic was a physician's office. Scorsone also said the clinic served the public interest by providing abortion services for the eastern half of the state. The administration appealed Scorsone's decision, and on June 15, a three-judge panel from the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled Scorsone's decision in error and issued a temporary injunction against EMW, prohibiting them from performing abortions until and unless the case was eventually resolved in its favor. The Kentucky Supreme Court sustained the injunction in August.
Bevin said he "strongly disagreed" with the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage, continuing "When the definition of marriage was put on the ballot 10 years ago, 74 percent of Kentuckians made it clear that they supported traditional marriage. Since that time, however, Activist judges have chosen to ignore the will of the people, and to ignore the Constitutional principle of state's rights." He then attacked Conway, who refused to appeal the 2014 federal court opinion that Kentucky's defense of marriage amendment violated the federal constitution: "Jack Conway's failure to do his job and defend our laws in Kentucky disqualifies him from being elected to the office of Governor." Conway responded that he "used the discretion given to me by statute to inform Gov. Beshear and the citizens of the Commonwealth that I would not waste the scarce resources of this office pursuing a costly appeal that would not be successful." Bevin contended that Conway's decision cost Kentucky taxpayers $2.3 million, citing the cost of private attorneys that Beshear hired to defend the amendment in Conway's place.
Bevin issued the first executive orders of his administration on December 22, 2015. Among the issues addressed were removing the names of county clerks from state marriage licenses, and reversing orders by Beshear that restored voting rights for non-violent felons who had completed their sentences and raised the minimum wage for some state workers to $10.10 per hour.
In the 2016 election, the Republican Party took a supermajority in the Kentucky House of Representatives, making it the first time since 1921 that the party controlled the chamber. State House Speaker Greg Stumbo, viewed as one of Bevin's main political antagonists, was one of several House Democrats defeated in the election, something to which Bevin remarked "'good riddance'...he will not be missed one bit. Kentucky will be better for his absence." This victory allowed Bevin to pursue his conservative agenda, as the House Democrats had blocked conservative legislation prior to this.
In April 2017, Bevin signed HB 128 into law, which ordered the Kentucky Board of Education to develop rules for Bible literacy classes. Bevin signed another bill authorizing Bible classes in June 2017.
In March 2018, Bevin sparked some controversy among local teachers' associations when he criticized their protesting of a pension reform bill as "selfish and shortsighted". In April 2018, he "guaranteed" that the teachers' labor stoppage had resulted in unsupervised children being sexually assaulted, physically harmed, or exposed to poison and drugs. The President of the Jefferson County Teachers Association responded that by Bevin's logic, schools should never have any breaks or vacations. The Republican-controlled Kentucky house condemned Bevin's comments and overrode his veto of a law that increased classroom spending.