Leadership and service marked a life of accomplishment for Kenneth F. Murrah, who succumbed to prostate cancer on December 5, 2014.
Kenneth was the quintessential Southern gentleman, with a distinctive accent formed during his youth in Chipley (now Pine Mountain), Georgia. Kenneth moved to Winter Park in 1944. He expressed his affection for this town through service on the City Commission and the Parks and Recreation Board and by his many personal contributions.
His Winter Park history presentations before various community organizations earned him the de facto title of City Historian. He loved learning about the people who had made a difference in this town and, in the process, Kenneth became one of them.
Kenneth appreciated his fine education and generously supported the institutions that provided it. Valedictorian of the Winter Park High School class of 1951, he was one of the founders of the school’s Foundation. In 1998 he initiated an annual celebration at the Winter Park Public Library honoring each year’s valedictorians and their families. He endowed a fund to continue the tradition.
In gratitude for the scholarships that made it possible for him to graduate from both the College and Law School at Emory University, he contributed funds each year that enabled other young people to enjoy that opportunity. His volunteer service to Emory was recognized both with the law school’s Distinguished Alumnus Award and the J. Pollard Turman Award for exceptional alumni service. Kenneth’s undergraduate leadership positions included President of his fraternity and Student Body President.
His Alpha Tau Omega fraternity provided a lifetime of friendships. He showed his appreciation by endowing college scholarships and LeaderShape training for ATOs, both at Emory and at Florida chapters. He assisted in founding the University of Central Florida ATO chapter and served on the board of the ATO National Foundation.
Kenneth established his law practice in Winter Park in 1963, focusing on estates and trusts. With support from longtime partners Patrick Doyle and Bruce Wigle, and from devoted staff, Kenneth helped people plan secure futures for themselves. The firm provided broad services to many widows and widowers who had no families to help them. In July 2014, Kenneth recruited a talented young partner, David Torre, to help carry on the firm’s work. Kenneth loved his work and could never imagine retirement. He worked on behalf of others to the end of his life.
Kenneth supported the First United Methodist Church of Winter Park and served on the Board of Trustees. As managing trustee of the Susan H. Marcy Trust, he initiated a number of innovative grants to strengthen the church. For over 35 years, he also participated on the district New Church Development Board.
A passion for fairness and a devotion to community put Kenneth at the forefront of many civic efforts. The list of task forces on which Kenneth served is a long one. Among the most important were the Bi-Racial Commission in the early 1960s — predating the 1964 Civil Rights Act — Central Park, City Charter, and Commuter Rail. He also helped raise funds to furnish the Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center, named in honor of his late wife. He garnered funds to develop Shady Park, promoted a bond referendum to purchase the city golf course, and supported a referendum to build the new public safety building.
He served on the boards of Hospice of Central Florida, the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, the Central Florida Foundation, the Holocaust Center, Meals on Wheels, the Gardens at DePugh, and the Winter Park Advisory Committee to the Central Florida Foundation.
Kenneth and Rachel, his wife from 1957 until her death in 2000, and his second wife, Ann Hicks, all demonstrated their appreciation for the Winter Park Public Library through service on its board and support of its fundraisers. Honoring Rachel‘s love of reading, Kenneth established a memorial endowment to purchase works of fiction.
Arts and other cultural organizations were a priority for Kenneth. He generously supported the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra (OPO) and Rollins’ Cornell Fine Arts Museum. He was honored to receive the OPO’s John O. Blackburn Distinguished Service Award in 2013. Kenneth was the kind of board member most valued by non-profits. He attracted new friends and funds. He gave generously of time, talent, and resources. He prepared diligently for meetings and posed important — if sometimes challenging — questions.
Kenneth’s connection with the Democratic party dates back to his childhood, when President Roosevelt made frequent visits to nearby Warm Springs, where Kenneth saw him driving his car equipped with hand controls. As an adult Kenneth supported candidates who worked for public education and women’s rights. He was appointed to the Florida Elections Commission by Governor Lawton Chiles. Locally, he served as the treasurer for three candidates for the City Commission.
Devoted Family Man
One key to Kenneth’s ability to give back to his community was the support of his family. For 43 years he was the loving husband of Rachel, mother of his sons Ken and Bert (d. 1990). Since 2002 Ann Hicks has been his fortunate partner not only in civic affairs, but also in world travel. Kenneth especially loved time with Ken Jr.’s family in Ponte Vedra, watching Jack, Kenny, and MacLain grow up, and, with Ann, providing sideline support for Jack’s baseball, football, and lacrosse games.
Memorial Service January 4, 2015
A celebration of Kenneth’s life will take place at the First United Methodist Church of Winter Park on January 4, 2015, at 4:00 p.m., preceded by music from members of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra at 3:30, and followed by a reception in the Family Life Center. Friends are encouraged to follow his example of generosity by making a contribution to the OPO Plaza renovation fund, the Winter Park Library new building fund, the Cornell Museum exhibits fund, or your preferred non-profit organization.
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