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Kenneth W. Starr, Former U.S. Solicitor General, Independent Counsel in Whitewater Investigation, Dies at 76


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Distinguished legal scholar Kenneth W. Starr, a Ronald Reagan judicial appointee and U.S. Solicitor General under George H.W. Bush, has died. He was 76.

He passed away due to complications from surgery on Sept. 13 at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston, Texas.

Starr had a long and storied career in law, academia, and public service. He was famously appointed by a three-judge panel to serve as Independent Counsel for five investigations, including Whitewater, and later served as a lawyer for President Trump, defeating the impeachment efforts of Congress. 

Starr also served as president and chancellor of Baylor University and as the dean of the Pepperdine School of Law. 

After leaving Baylor, Starr was Of Counsel to The Lanier Law Firm, where he continued to practice appellate law. He also taught courses in constitutional law, negotiation, and religious liberty plus authored several books and articles, and also served as a commentator for Fox News.

Served as U.S. Solicitor General and a U.S. Circuit Judge 

Starr argued 36 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including 25 during his service as U.S. Solicitor General from 1989 to 1993. He previously served as United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1983 to 1989, as Counselor and Chief of Staff to U.S. Attorney General William French Smith from 1981 to 1983, and as a law clerk to both Chief Justice Warren E. Burger (1975-1977) and to Fifth Circuit Judge David W. Dyer (1973-1974).

For 25 years, Starr taught constitutional law as an adjunct or visiting professor at New York University, George Mason School of Law, Pepperdine School of Law, Chapman Law School, and as the Louise L. Morrison Professor at The Baylor Law School. 

More recently, Starr taught courses at Regent Law School and Hillsdale College. He was a partner at two national law firms: Kirkland & Ellis and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, specializing in appellate law. 

A Lifetime of Service

Starr also held leadership roles on many non-profit boards, including Advocates International, Christian Legal Society, and the Alliance Defending Freedom Advisory Board. Throughout his professional career, he championed the cause of religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all persons.

"Over four decades I have known Ken as 'Judge Starr,' 'Dean Starr,' 'President Starr,' 'Uncle Ken,' but most importantly 'dear friend,' to me, my family, our firm, our clients, American justice, and world justice. The world has lost a super Starr, and the world is rightly in mourning," said Mark Lanier. 

Starr was born July 21, 1946, to William D. Starr and Vannie Trimble Starr. He grew up in San Antonio, Texas, where his father was a barber and minister. After graduating from San Antonio's Sam Houston High School, he earned his B.A. from George Washington University while working part-time on Capitol Hill for Congressman Bob Price. 

He earned a Master of Arts in Political Science from Brown University and his Juris Doctor degree from Duke University Law School where he was Order of the Coif and served as Note and Comment Editor on the Duke Law Journal. 

Starr was admitted to practice law in Texas, California, the District of Columbia, Virginia, and the United States Supreme Court.

He received numerous honors and awards throughout his career, including the Edmund Randolph Award for Outstanding Service in the Department of Justice, the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service, the J. Reuben Clark Law Society 2005 Distinguished Service Award, the 2004 Capital Book Award, and the Jefferson Cup award from the FBI. He received honorary doctoral degrees from American University, Hampton Sydney College, Shenandoah University, and Pepperdine University.

'Always Put Family First'

Starr is survived by his beloved wife Alice Jean Mendell Starr to whom he was married for 52 years. They lived in Northern Virginia, California, and most recently Waco, Texas. In addition, he is survived by his three children, Randall P. Starr married to Melina T. Starr, Carolyn S. Doolittle married to Cameron M. Doolittle, and Cynthia S. Roemer married to Justin M. Roemer, plus nine grandchildren: Grace, Christiana, Hewson, and Sandhana Doolittle; William and Charlotte Starr; and Sienna, Madison, and Colton Roemer. 

Starr is also survived by his sister, Billie Jeayne Reynolds, and brother, Jerry Starr. 

Speaking for all of the Starr children, Randall said: "We are deeply saddened with the loss of our dear and loving Father and Grandfather, whom we admired for his prodigious work ethic, but who always put his family first. The love, energy, endearing sense of humor, and fun-loving interest Dad exhibited to each of us was truly special, and we cherish the many wonderful memories we were able to experience with him. He is now with his Lord and Savior."

Visitation will be held at Wilkirson Hatch Bailey in Waco on Friday, September 23 from 4:00 – 7:00 pm. A memorial service for family only will be held at Antioch Community Church in Waco on Saturday, September 24 at 3:00 pm. 

Starr will be buried at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. 

In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Ken Starr can be made to:

Alliance Defending Freedom 
15100 N. 90th Street, 
Scottsdale, AZ 85260


Religious Freedom Institute 
316 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 501
Washington, DC 20003

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