Former Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Tom Emberton dies in house fire

Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 1:48 PM EDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Former Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Tom Emberton of Edmonton passed away Thursday in a tragic house fire.

“He heroically rescued his wife and got her to safety. Then he went back in to save his home and lost his life,” said Edmonton Mayor, Doug Smith.

Emberton and Smith were long time friends and fishing partners.

“Tom was just the greatest guy in the world to be around. He was infectious to everybody,” Smith said. “He had a way about him that was really special.”

Former Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Tom Emberton dies in house fire
Former Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Tom Emberton dies in house fire(WBKO)

Condolences are pouring in from various political leaders in the Commonwealth.

Smith sent out the following statement about Emberton, “Today, Kentucky lost a great father, husband, friend and statesman in a tragic accidental house fire. Tom heroically made certain his wife Julia made it to safety but lost his life during his effort to save their home. Tom Emberton was a treasured son of Metcalfe County Kentucky, having served as a lawyer and chief judge of the Ky. Court of appeals. He was the Republican candidate for Governor in 1971. He was a friend to many and always a champion of South Central Ky. His wisdom, kindness and always sage advice was an encouragement to all. 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. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Julia, his daughter Laura Emberton Owens and son Tom Emberton Jr. and the entire Emberton family. Tom Emberton Jr. and his sister Laura Owens would like to thank the community and especially the first responders for their professionalism, quick response and kindness during this challenging time for their family. "

Emberton was 90 years old and he and his wife were married for 65 years.

Along with being a devoted husband and father, Emberton was a statesman.

“He did a lot for the city of Edmonton, Metcalfe County, Fifth District, State of Kentucky,” Smith said. “He was just a really good fellow.”

Senator Mitch McConnell said in a statement, “Elaine and I are heartbroken to learn of the tragic passing of our good friend Judge Tom Emberton. 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. Tom advocated for conservative values across our state and played a key role in organizing Kentucky Republicans at every level, paving the way for me and so many other conservatives to follow in his footsteps.

“In 1987, in recognition of Tom’s distinguished career and outstanding service to the Commonwealth, a Democratic governor appointed him to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. He was re-elected to that position twice and also was elected by his peers to serve as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, a position he held until he retired in 2004. After retirement, he and Julia Lee continued to be active in the Metcalfe County community, and Tom received a number of well-deserved honors and awards. Tom was a model gentleman, a devoted husband, and a wonderful father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Our prayers are with Julia Lee, their children Laura and Tom Jr., their five grandchildren, and the entire Emberton family in this difficult time.”

Emberton also attended Western Kentucky University and was inducted into the WKU Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2016.