Former KY GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emberton dies in house fire

In a tragic end to a marital union of 65 years, former Kentucky Court of Appeals chief judge and onetime GOP gubernatorial candidate in the state, Tom Emberton, died Thursday in a house fire, but not before heroically facilitating his wife’s escape from the blaze, as CBS News reports.

The conflagration at the Emberton residence in Edmonton was discovered in the wee hours of the morning, according to Metcalfe County Coroner Larry Wilson, and it ultimately claimed the life of the 90-year-old jurist and politician.

Last heroic act

Mayor Doug Smith of Edmonton revealed that the house fire has been deemed accidental, and explained the sad series of events that led to Emberton’s demise.

Though the former judge succeeded in escorting his spouse to safety after becoming aware of the fire, he then went back inside the structure and was unable to get back out.

“Tom heroically made certain his wife Julia made it to safety but lost his life during his effort to save their home,” Smith explained to Bowling Green ABC affiliate WBKO.

“Treasured son of Metcalfe County”

Smith later issued a statement marking Emberton’s passing and paying tribute to a person he called “a treasured son of Metcalfe County.”

“Today, Kentucky lost a great father, husband, friend and statesman,” Smith declared, while also listing Emberton’s many accomplishments as a lawyer, chief judge of the state Court of Appeals, and Republican candidate for governor back in 1971.

“He was a friend to many and always a champion of South Central Kentucky. His wisdom, kindness and always sage advice was an encouragement to all,” Smith continued.

Noting Emberton’s historical connection to the state’s political history, Smith added, “As a relative of Henry Clay, his ability to mediate and compromise came naturally, an attribute that would serve our country well at this time.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also offered words of praise for Emberton upon receiving the news of his passing, stating, “Tom gave me one of my earliest experiences in the rough and tumble reality of political campaigning, hiring me to work on his 1971 gubernatorial campaign. He taught me valuable lessons on public service and running as a statewide Republican in Kentucky.”

Honorable legacy

An alumnus of Western Kentucky University, Emberton also spent four years in the U.S. Air Force and ultimately graduated from the University of Louisville school of Law. In 1987, he received his appointment to the state Court of Appeals, won re-election on two occasions, and held the position of chief judge until his 2004 retirement, CBS News further noted.

In addition to the countless Kentuckians grateful for his years of public service, Emberton will be fondly remembered by family members who survive, including wife, Julia, one daughter, Laura Emberton Owens, a son, Tom Emberton Jr., and a host of extended relatives and friends.