Former three-term Whitley County Attorney and Whitley Circuit Judge Emby McKeehan has passed away.
McKeehan, 94, died Aug. 7 at his home on Bee Creek Road.
McKeehan was a Whitley County native born on Whippoorwill Creek next to Laurel Lake. When he was three years old, his parents moved to Corbin where he was raised.
McKeehan was a WWII veteran, who served in the United States Army.
McKeehan attended the University of Kentucky’s law school, and became a practicing attorney in 1968.
McKeehan was first elected county attorney in 1977 narrowly defeating Ben Davis in the primary by 15 votes. Four years later he was unchallenged in his bid for re-election. In 1983, he was elected circuit judge.
His tenure in public office wasn’t without controversy.
On Feb. 20, 1987, McKeehan, who was 63 at the time, abruptly resigned as circuit judge amid reports that he was being investigated for judicial misconduct.
He said in a statement to the media following his resignation that he wanted to devote more time to a trout fish hatchery he had been building and to his farm.
At the time, the FBI, a federal job rights commission and the Kentucky Retirement and Removal Commission were investigating McKeehan.
The FBI was investigating a claim that McKeehan accepted a $5,000 bribe in connection with a civil lawsuit in his court, according to News Journal archives.
At the time, the FBI was also investigating allegations that McKeehan associates allegedly took money in an attempt to influence his decisions or to arrange private, improper meetings with the judge regarding cases in his court, News Journal archives show.
When McKeehan tendered his resignation, the Judicial Retirement and Removal Commission was meeting to reportedly consider another complaint against McKeehan.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was also investigating a claim that McKeehan allegedly sexually harassed a former secretary, a claim that McKeehan denied.
McKeehan’s controversial past didn’t stop him from successfully making another go at political office about a decade later.
In 1998, McKeehan was elected to a third term as county attorney winning a three-way race in the Republican primary. He came up short in his bid for re-election four years later losing out to his then assistant, Paul Winchester, in the primary.
McKeehan, who was 82 at the time, last tried to run for public office in 2006, when he filed to run for Whitley Circuit Judge against incumbent Paul Braden before withdrawing from the race.
“There comes a time when one must realize that he cannot go on forever, and I would find no pleasure in winning an election over an old friend, even if I could,” McKeehan said in a letter to the News Journal in 2006. “Paul and I go back a long time. When I first met him, he was a radio personality in Middlesboro and we were classmates in law school at the University of Kentucky.”
“As I step down and withdraw from the race for circuit judge of the 34th judicial circuit, I say farewell to politics, the thrill and challenge of the campaign and exchange it for the peace and quietude of a simple existence, just taking care of my law practice and fishing some.”
McKeehan’s funeral services were held Friday at Croley Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Billy Carpenter officiating. He was laid to rest in the Johnson Cemetery on the Johnson Cemetery Road in Corbin.
The American Legion Post #88 of Corbin conducted military graveside honors.