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Former Kentucky judge Tom Emberton dies in fire after saving wife

A former Kentucky appeals court judge and one-time gubernatorial candidate died in a house fire Thursday after heroically saving his wife, authorities said.

Former judge Tom Emberton, 90, sprang into action after his home in the city of Edmonton went up in flames around 3:30 a.m.

“He heroically rescued his wife and got her to safety,” Edmonton Mayor Doug Smith told local ABC affiliate WBKO.

“Then he went back in to save his home and lost his life,” the mayor said.

Emberton ran for governor of Kentucky in 1971 and was appointed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 1987.

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

Tom Emberton
Tom Emberton ran for governor of Kentucky in 1971.
Western Kentucky University

Emberton was reelected to the Court of Appeals twice and served as chief judge of the appellate court until he retired in 2004, according to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell served on Emberton’s gubernatorial campaign.

“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,” McConnell said in a statement. “He taught me valuable lessons on public service and running as a statewide Republican in Kentucky.”

Emberton and his wife Julia had been married for 65 years. The couple had two children and five grandchildren.

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