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Political community & friends react to Gatewood's death

By: Elizabeth Dorsett Email
By: Elizabeth Dorsett Email

With a signature hat and often a smile on his face, many in Kentucky know him only as "Gatewood."

"Nobody was as colorful as Gatewood or more fun," explained Larry Forgy, who was a candidate in the Republican Party several times.

The 64-year-old was born in Carlisle, Kentucky, and moved to Lexington when he was 12. After an honorable discharge with the Marines, he hitch-hiked around the country for 6 years picking up odd jobs. It was only after he returned to Lexington that he went to school and later became a lawyer, just to learn the system he at times wanted to buck.

Creating waves and inspiring some change, in 1983 Galbraith ran for Agriculture Commissioner, Governor in 1991, and 1995 on the Democratic ticket. He later registered as an independent, running for Attorney General in 2003 and again for governor in 1999 and most recently in 2010.

"For those of us who've covered Politics in the last quarter of a century, we've often asked ourselves what would a campaign be like without Gatewood," explained WKYT's own Political Editor Bill Bryant. "He made it so much fun and now we'll have to find out."

"The news Of Gatewood's passing is such a shock; he had incredible charisma and was a colorful character," Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said from his office in downtown Lexington. "He gave a lot to the democratic process."

"I remember being at a banquet in Louisville one time where we were debating each other," recalled Larry Forgy. "Everyone had on tuxedos but Gatewood and me and he said look at them out there, I can tell you one thing, I'm the only one who came here for a free meal!"

Many in the Lexington community know him as a perennial candidate, offering up debates introduced by representing the Independent Party. The 64-year-old also had many memorable moments while trying to raise awareness for the issues he cared about most.

In addition to a career as a criminal defense attorney, Galbraith was well-know for his views on legalizing marijuana and for furthering the hemp movement. For a time, Gatewood represented Actor Woody Harrelson, who famously planted hemp in a Beattyville field in 1996. The following year, he toured the state of Kentucky with singer Willie Nelson in a red Mercedes station wagon powered by hemp. Nelson often trekked back to Kentucky to add a punch to Gatewood's campaigns.

"He and I disagreed on a couple of issues, but you couldn't help but like him," remarked Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson with a smile on his face. "He was one of the most likable guys I've ever dealt with and a good lawyer. You always knew when Gatewood was on the other side, the jury was going to love him so you really had to work hard and get your facts straight. I'm real sorry."

Many in central Kentucky credit the Carlisle native for bringing a third party to races since his split from the democratic party in 1999 and for forcing some issues during debates.

"He had that big, booming voice," recalled Larson "He had a great sense of humor, even in a serious trial. He was a always gentleman."

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