WKYT - Harlan - Headlines

Community gathers for judge G. Wix Unthank funeral

By: Matthew Rand Email
By: Matthew Rand Email

HARLAN, Ky. (WYMT) - Friends and loved ones gathered Thursday to say goodbye to a man they called a pillar in Harlan County. Longtime Federal judge G. Wix Unthank died Tuesday at 90.

Marilyn Unthank recalled a story about her late husband at his visitation. When she married G. Wix Unthank in 1953, she was Presbyterian and a Republican and he was a Democrat and a Baptist. He switched denominations and she switched parties.

"Some would say to him 'Well what do you think about being a Presbyterian?' He said 'Well I know what I'm doing when I'm Presbyterian, but I don't know what she's doing when she goes in the voting booth," she said.

Born June 14th, 1923, G. Wix Unthank graduated from Loyall High School and earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart serving in the 509th Parachute Battalion in World War Two.

After the war, Unthank turned his attention to law, doing his undergraduate work at the University of Kentucky and earning his doctorate from the University of Miami Law School in Coral Gables, Florida.

Serving in a variety of legal capacities over the course of his career, including 10 years as Commonwealth Attorney, in 1980 he was appointed United States Federal Judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

"He brought a decorum and respect for the federal bench that lasted and still lasts today," said Tom Self, a retired U.S. Assistant Attorney.

Friends say Unthank was also a faithful member and trustee of First Presbyterian Church of Harlan.

"An honorable man, a good judge, a good lawyer," said Bruce Stephens, a close friend of Unthank and a retired lawyer. "He represented the people here in Harlan County as their judge and Commonwealth Attorney."

That's how folks here say they will remember Unthank: a war hero, a tough but fair judge, and a committed servant of God.

Burial services will be held Saturday at noon at the Wix Howard Cemetery in Loyall.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to First Presbyterian Church of Harlan, or to a preferred charity.


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