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‘He was larger than life’: Family and friends remember former State Representative Mike Bowling

Published: Feb. 20, 2021 at 6:46 PM EST
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Saturday, State Representative Adam Bowling posted on Facebook that his dad, former State Representative Mike Bowling, died.

“We’ve shed a lot of tears the last handful of days but we’ve had 10 times the laughs. We’ve just celebrated his life,” said Adam Bowling.

Mike Bowling was born in Japan. As a military brat, he moved across the world during his childhood. He ended up in Middlesboro where he met his high school sweetheart Jamie. The two married several years later.

“He loved his children, he loved everybody but his love for his wife is something that you have to witness to understand it. I mean he absolutely doted on her and adored her,” said Adam.

After college, law school, and four years in the Army, Mike returned to Middlesboro and started a law practice. He fought for the people, taking on the Workers Compensation Law, after a law change which put a burden on the coal industry.

“He took money out of his own pocket to do the right thing. By championing that law by getting it passed, he had people in his own law firm that were fighting him tooth and nail on it and he said no we have to do this. This is the right thing,” said Adam.

Mike served the 87th District in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1991 to 1998. As a state representative, Mike brought water lines to communities that were without. He took mason jars of water to Frankfort to illustrate the need in Eastern Kentucky.

“He would pull them out in testifying committee and tell the legislators these are what our fellow Kentuckians are drinking. This is unacceptable. We’ve got to get this done,” said Adam.

One of Mike’s friends Rocky Adkins, says the first time he met Mike in 1991, he knew he would have a big impact as a state representative.

“He was smart, he was competitive. He knew how to bring about relationships. He know how to work across party isles,” said Adkins. “He understood this process much quicker than most people of how to get it down the budget process the legislative process.”

Education was also one of his top priorities. He was the attorney for the Bell County Board of Education and also a member of the Kentucky Board of Education. On Friday, Bowling resigned from the Kentucky Board of Education.

“Mike fought hard for better schools for our kids. I’m talking about the facilities as well as the education but the facilities that our kids go to,” said Adkins.

Long after his time as a representative, Bell County Judge Executive Albey Brock said he stayed active in politics, and would always lend a helping hand to push a project forward as he was a fierce negotiator.

“Mike was one of the most consequential people to ever live in Bell County and the region for that matter,” said Brock. “He enjoyed negotiating. It was something that he was passionate about and you know the more prickly it was it seemed the more he thrived in it.”

Mike’s family and friends say they will remember him by his laugh, his big smile and compassion for everyone around him.

“If you met him once you would always remember him,” said Adkins. “His finger print is not only in his legislative district but really his footprint all across Kentucky will be remembered and it will be remembered as one that was positive and help our state move in really a very progressive way to having hope and opportunity.”

Governor Andy Beshear said in a statement, “Mike Bowling’s passing is a loss for the Commonwealth. Mike was a friend and a lifelong fighter for our students, educators, public schools and the people of Southeastern Kentucky,” said Gov. Beshear. “I appreciated Mike answering the call and stepping up to serve on the Board of Education as we prioritized public education in Kentucky. Britainy and I are praying for Jamie, the entire Bowling family and all of those he touched through his life of public service,” the governor added.

You can plant a tree in memory of Bowling on his obituary page.

Dad went to his forever home this morning. He passed away peacefully surrounded by his family. We are heartbroken but...

Posted by Adam Bowling on Saturday, February 20, 2021

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