Tom Emberton, once the Republican nominee for governor of Kentucky and later chief justice of the State Court of Appeals, died Thursday after a home fire broke out after escaping his wife, officials said.
Metcalfe County Coroner Larry Wilson said the fire was discovered around 3:30 p.m. Wilson said Emberton helped his wife away from home but then went back in and didn’t get out. Emberton was in his late 80s.
Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. announced Emberton’s death during his state of the judiciary, spokeswoman Leigh Anne Hyatt said.
Edmonton Mayor Doug Smith said the fire was accidental.
In a statement to WBKO-TV in Bowling Green, Smith said: “Tom heroically made sure his wife Julia made it to a safe place, but she lost her life while attempting to save their home.”
Emberton, a Metcalfe County attorney, ran for governor in 1971, losing to then-lieutenant governor Wendell Ford in the general election.
He was appointed to the Court of Appeal in 1987. He was re-elected twice and also served as Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals until retiring in 2004, said US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
“Tom gave me one of his earliest experiences of the tough and difficult reality of political campaigning, hiring me to work on his 1971 gubernatorial campaign,” McConnell said in a statement. “He taught me valuable lessons on public service and running as a statewide Republican in Kentucky.”
Emberton is survived by his children, Laura Emberton Owens and Tom Emberton Jr.;
According to his alma mater, Western Kentucky University, Emberton enrolled in the school after a four-year tour of duty with the United States Air Force. After graduating from WKU, Emberton was accepted into the University of Louisville School of Law in 1959.
In 2007, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet named a bridge in Metcalf County in his honor, the university said.