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90-year-old retired Kentucky judge, who once hired Sen. Mitch McConnell, dies in house fire after 'heroically' rescuing his wife
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90-year-old retired Kentucky judge, who once hired Sen. Mitch McConnell, dies in house fire after 'heroically' rescuing his wife

A distinguished, retired appeals court judge and former gubernatorial candidate in the commonwealth of Kentucky died tragically in a house fire earlier this week after he first "heroically" led his wife to safety.

Tom Emberton, 90, awoke around 3:30 in the morning on Thursday and discovered that his house in Metcalfe County was on fire. Emberton quickly sprang up and helped his wife outdoors to safety. However, he then went back into the blaze in an attempt to save his home and tragically lost his life.

The fire is believed to have been accidental.

Longtime colleague and fishing partner Doug Smith, the mayor of Edmonton, wrote a touching tribute to his late friend.

"Today, Kentucky lost a great father, husband, friend and statesman in a tragic accidental house fire," Smith's statement reads in part. "Tom heroically made certain his wife Julia made it to safety but lost his life during his effort to save their home."

"He was a friend to many and always a champion of South Central Ky," the statement adds. "His wisdom, kindness and always sage advice was an encouragement to all."

Emberton had been involved in public life for over 30 years. He ran for the governor's seat as a Republican in 1971 and hired a young upstart named Mitch McConnell, currently the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, to serve on his campaign. McConnell also released a statement about Emberton's passing.

"Elaine and I are heartbroken to learn of the tragic passing of our good friend Judge Tom Emberton," McConnell said. "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."

Below is an old political ad from Emberton's 1971 campaign:

Emberton ultimately lost the race to Wendell Ford.

In 1987, Governor Wallace Wilkinson, a Democrat, appointed Emberton to serve on the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Emberton was then reelected to the position twice and also served as chief judge. He retired in 2004.

Tom and Julia Emberton had been married for 65 years at the time of his death. They had two children, five grandchildren, and at least one great-grandchild.

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Cortney Weil

Cortney Weil

Sr. Editor, News

Cortney Weil is a senior editor for Blaze News. She has a Ph.D. in Shakespearean drama, but now enjoys writing about religion, sports, and local criminal investigations. She loves God, her husband, and all things Michigan State.
@cortneyweil →