James Park, 78, prominent Lexington lawyer and longtime Republican leader, died yesterday morning at his home on Tates Creek Pike. He had been ill several years.
Mr. Park, a member of the law firm of Stoll, Keenon and Park, enjoyed a long and successful career as a lawyer, a career that began with a partnership with Zeb A. Stewart in 1920, shortly after Mr. Park's graduation from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
This career was interspersed with terms of public office and with service in various capacities in the Republican party.
He was elected state representative from Madison County in 1921, served as referee in bankruptcy in the U.S. District Court here from 1923 to 1925. He was elected Fayette County attorney in 1925 and served four terms as the Commonwealth's Attorney, having been elected to that office in 1927, 1933, 1939 and 1945.
He served as Fayette County Republican chairman in 1924-28, was delegate to the Republican National Conventions of 1932 and 1936; was state campaign chairman in 1935 for the election of governor and other state offices and was chairman of the Republican State Central Committee in 1948-52.
Ran for Senate
In 1944 the lawyer was the Republican candidate for the United States Senate against the incumbent Alben W. Barkley, and, although defeated, he reduced the Democratic majority in Kentucky from approximately 145,000 (in 1940) to about 80,000 in 1944.
One of the original "Eisenhower for President" supporters in Kentucky, Mr. Park campaigned in three Congressional Districts for the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket and for Sen. John Sherman Cooper.
He had a large part in the organization and conduct of the campaign in Fayette County, which, in 1952, gave a 3,100 majority to Eisenhower and Nixon and a 2,200 majority to Cooper.
Mr. Park was graduated cum laude from the UK Law School in June 1920, and that month took the state bar examination, receiving the highest grade of those taking the test. Shortly after graduation, he taught one year in the UK College of Law.
The lawyer's just, fair and capable conduct of the office of commonwealth's attorney is indicated by the fact that during his tenure no case prosecuted by him was reversed by the Court of Appeals of Kentucky on account of any error made by him in the prosecution.
Nor were any of his findings of fact and conclusions of law ever disapproved by the U.S. District Court during the years he served as special master in chancery, a position to which he was appointed by Federal Judge A.M. J. Cochran.
Although Mr. Park's experience as a trial lawyer was wide and varied, his primary interest was in the study of law. His civil practice in both state and federal courts was extensive and varied. He briefed hundred of cases in the Circuit Courts and, less frequently, in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the U.S.
Mr. Park did not seek reelection as commonwealth's attorney in 1951, and it was at a testimonial dinner given for him in December of that year that his qualities of fair play and legal proficiency were best described.
William H. Townsend - one of Mr. Park's law partners and one of 120 lawyers and judges from throughout the state who attended the dinner - said: "One of Mr. Park's characteristics is his utter lack of animosity . . . I have never heard Mr. Park utter a harsh or bitter word against any human being. When a man can prosecute a defendant so vigorously, as Mr. Park did on one occasion, that he is given the death penalty, yet prosecutes him so fairly that the condemned man sends him a Christmas card before his execution, then we may be certain that even-handed justice has prevailed in the courthouse."
Mr. Park was born Nov. 10, 1892, in Madison County and was a son of the late Curtis F. and Julia Rice Park. He attended Model High School, Richmond, acquiring sufficient credits in three years to enter the University of Kentucky in 1911.
He was active in athletics, made excellent grades, was a student assistant and tutored upper classmen in calculus and higher mathematics.
He participated in the Student Senate, Keys, Mystic 13, Lamp and Cross, and Phi Delta Theta and was chairman of the YMCA.
While at UK, he was all-Kentucky quarterback, played center on the basketball team and pitcher on the baseball team. Mr. Park won four varsity letters in football, three in basketball and three in baseball. Several of his football records at UK still stand.
Before entering UK, he played baseball with the Richmond team in the Blue Grass league and later played with the Lexington team in the Ohio State League.
In the summer of 1915, Mr. Park was bought by the St. Louis Browns, pitched there until August 1917, and then was with Omaha in the Western League, Columbus in the American Association and Kansas City and Oklahoma. After he obtained his law degree, Park helped organize and played on the Lexington Reo baseball team in the Blue Grass League.
On UK Board
Mr. Park also found time to participate in many civic activities. He served 16 years as a member of the UK Board of Trustees, and had served as chairman of the American Red Cross and Community Chest fund-raising campaigns, as president of the Lexington Optimist Club and as a trustee of the College of the Bible.
He also had served as a member of the Board of Bar Commissioners of the Kentucky Bar Association and was a member of the Fayette County Bar Association, American Bar Association and the American Law Institute.
Mr. Park was a member and for many years an elder and chairman of the congregation of Central Christian Church.
For a number of years he was a member of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on State Legislation.
Mr. Park also served with the Army Air Corps during World War I and was athletic director and coach at Transylvania College for a time.
In February 1965, he received the Henry T. Duncan Memorial Award, presented annually by the Fayette County Bar Association to an outstanding lawyer.
At the time, Weldon Shouse, chairman of the committee that had selected Mr. Park for the award, told those attending the banquet for the Kentucky Court of Appeals:
"There is, perhaps, not one of us that, in his (Mr. Park's) long years of active practice, he has not directly assisted. Certainly, the exemplary life that he has lived has been a source of great inspiration to all of us."
That same year he also received a UK Centennial Medallion.
His son, James Park Jr., is a Fayette Circuit judge.
Other survivors include his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Kimbrough Park, a daughter, Miss Ridgely Park, Lexington; three brothers, Curtis F. Park, Harrodsburg; Dr. George E. Park, Chicago, Ill. and R. Smith Park, Richmond, and three grandchildren, James Park III, John Bowling Park and Mary Byrne Park.
Services will be conducted at 11 a.m. Saturday at the W. R. Milward Mortuary - Broadway. Burial will be in the Lexington Cemetery.