Leadership and service marked a life of accomplishment for Kenneth F. Murrah, who succumbed to metastasized prostate cancer on December 5, 2014. Known as a kind gentleman with a distinctive southern accent formed by his youth in Chipley (now Pine Mountain), Georgia, Kenneth moved to Winter Park at age 12 on D-Day 1944. His affection for this town was expressed in many ways, including a passionate support of Central Park and the city’s tree canopy through advocacy on the City Commission and the Parks and Recreation Board as well as personal donations to a tree preservation fund. He became known as the City Historian through his presentations on Winter Park history to Leadership Winter Park classes and other community organizations. He enjoyed doing research on individuals who made a difference in this town, and in turn became one of those high-impact residents himself. When political issues - especially dealing with commercial development - arose, he worked to see that the facts were widely known. Kenneth appreciated his fine education, and demonstrated his gratitude with support of 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 lunch celebration at the Winter Park Public Library honoring each year’s valedictorians (usually 12- 20!) and their families, and then endowed a fund to continue the tradition. Forever grateful for the scholarships that made it possible for him to graduate from both the College and Law School at Emory University, he contributed each year to funds for others to have 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. Campus leadership positions as an undergraduate included President of his fraternity as well as the student body. In recent years he became known as “Mr. Emory” in Central Florida as he organized annual alumni gatherings featuring stimulating speakers from the university. His Alpha Tau Omega fraternity experience provided not only lifetime friends but also excellent leadership training for undergraduates. He showed his appreciation throughout his adult life by endowing funds for both college scholarships and LeaderShape training for ATOs at Emory as well as chapters in Florida. While serving as an officer of the national fraternity, he assisted in founding the University of Central Florida chapter. He was also a board member of the ATO National Foundation. Kenneth established his law practice in Winter Park in 1963, focusing on estate planning and administration of estates and trusts. With valued support from longtime partners Patrick Doyle and Bruce Wigle and devoted staff, he loved helping people plan their futures and solve their problems. He recruited an exceptional new partner, David Torre, in July 2014. Kenneth truly loved his work, and couldn’t imagine ever retiring. He worked with clients from varied backgrounds and income levels, and his office provided broad services to many widows and widowers with no families to help them. A lifelong Methodist, Kenneth supported the First United Methodist Church of Winter Park through financial gifts as well as service, including the Administrative Board and 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 inspired Kenneth to lead many civic efforts. City commissioners appointed him to task forces including the Bi-Racial Commission in the early 1960s (before the Civil Rights Act), Central Park, Charter Review, and Commuter Rail as well as committees to raise funds to furnish the Civic Center (later named the Rachel D. Murrah center), develop Shady Park, promote a bond referendum to purchase the city golf course, and support a referendum to build a 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 Community Advisory Committee to the Central Florida Foundation. A high school leadership role in the American Junior Red Cross led to a 2-month tour of Europe as a US representative of the organization in 1950. Sixty years later he continued to support the Planned Giving Committee of the Orange County chapter of the American Red Cross, establishing an annual Legacy Award event honoring leaders in planned giving. Kenneth, his wife (from 1957 until her death in 2000) Rachel, and his second wife, Ann Hicks, all expressed their appreciation for the Winter Park Public Library through service on its board and support of its fundraisers. Honoring Rachel’s love of reading, he established a memorial endowment to purchase fiction books, and continued to contribute to it each month. Arts and other cultural organizations were a priority throughout Kenneth’s adult life. He generously supported the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and Rollins’ Cornell Fine Arts Museum. He was honored to receive the OPO’s John O. Blackburn Distinguished Service Award in 2013, and spent recent months working to build support for the Philharmonic’s campaign to purchase and renovate its new home at the Plaza theater. In these and other organizations he was known as the kind of board member most valued by non-profits: he worked diligently to attract new friends and funds; gave generously of time, talent, and resources; prepared well for meetings, and asked important - if sometimes challenging - questions. Social service organizations providing assistance to women also received his support. He especially valued the work of Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando. Kenneth’s connection with the Democratic party dates back to his childhood, when President Roosevelt made frequent visits nearby, to Warm Springs, and Kenneth saw him driving his car equipped with hand controls. As an adult Kenneth was pleased to support 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. Of course a 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 fortunate to be his partner in civic activities as well as world travel, with a wide variety of Smithsonian and Historic Preservation tours. 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. On the last Sunday morning of each year, “CBS Sunday morning” includes a segment titled “Men and women who changed our lives and left our world a better place.” Those who knew Kenneth would agree that would be an apt description of him.
A celebration of Kenneth’s life is scheduled to take place at the First United Methodist Church of Winter Park on January 4th at 4pm with music by members of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra beginning at 3:30 and a reception following the service. You 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.