Home » Terry McBrayer, who founded a top Kentucky law firm, dies

Terry McBrayer, who founded a top Kentucky law firm, dies

W. Terry McBrayer

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Prominent and influential Kentucky lawyer and former political figure Terry McBrayer died Sunday, his daughter announced on her father’s Facebook page. He was 83.

McBrayer ran for governor as a Democrat in 1979 but lost in the primary to John Y. Brown Jr., who went on to become governor. McBrayer was a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, serving in the leadership roles of House Speaker Pro Tempore and Majority Floor Leader during his tenure and served as chief executive officer for former Gov. Julian Carroll. He served as chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party and served as President Clinton’s Authorized Representative for Kentucky and as a committeeman for the Democratic National Committee.

W. Terry McBrayer passed away at 1:32 a.m. Sunday in Lexington after an extended fight with cancer, his firm posted on its Facebook page this afternoon. He is survived by his children, Sarah McBrayer Savarie and John Lawton McBrayer, his sister, Judy McBrayer Campbell, and his five grandchildren, Alex McBrayer, Mina McBrayer, Odin McBrayer, Beatrice Savarie, and Lucy Savarie.

He founded the McBrayer law firm in 1963 in Greenup, Ky., and his small practice began in a single room rented above a grocery store, according to a post by the firm. In 1966, he was elected to his first term in the Kentucky House of Representatives, eventually serving as House Speaker Pro Tempore and Majority Floor Leader, and this began a lifetime of political involvement that has left an indelible mark on the commonwealth. The firm that bears his name has over 50 attorneys today with its headquarters in Lexington and offices in Louisville and a government affairs office, MML&K Government Solutions, in Frankfort.

“A true fighter to the very end, Terry McBrayer was a statesman, a lawyer, a lobbyist, a mentor, a Kentucky icon, a proud brother, father and grandfather, and a dear friend to all who have known him,” a post on his firm’s Facebook page says. “His is a loss from which we are not soon to recover.”

His daughter posted Sunday morning on her father’s personal Facebook page.

“It is with profound sadness I share with you the passing of my dad, Terry McBrayer. My dad was the kindest, most generous person I know. He loved his family, friends, his firm, the Wildcats and fishing — not necessarily always in that order!,” Sarah McBrayer Savarie wrote.

“He was a lifelong fisherman, fishing in all corners of the world. He learned to fish from his dad and he never stopped. Perhaps his favorite destination was Canada. He started going to Canada in 1970 with Dave Applegate and Jim Greenslate and has been back almost every year since. He had an amazing group of fishing buddies and the stories they tell are epic.

“He never met a stranger—treasuring new friends just as much as those he knew his whole life. I remember as a teenager going, well, anywhere with dad, and it took that much longer because he would stop to speak to so many people.

“He was a lifelong Kentucky basketball fan and loved taking his mom to the games. He would never wear Kentucky blue though – said he didn’t want to look like a cheerleader. One of his dearest friends is Joe B. Hall, former coach of the Cats and a great fisherman. Always such a treat to be with them when they started telling stories!

“He started practicing law 57 years ago in Greenup, Kentucky and built a firm of which he was incredibly proud. Even in the hospital, he was always trying to drum up business. He loved every single person in the firm and they loved him.

“Most importantly dad loved his family. He loved John and me and most especially his grandchildren—Alex, Mina, Odin, Bea and Lucy. We all learned so much from him and will miss his wisdom and guidance.

“Dad had cancer for 5 years and battled many, many complications as a result. He fought like a warrior and is an inspiration in courage.
He left an amazing legacy and will be missed by so very many people. Rest In Peace, Dad. There is a party in heaven right now as you are reunited with Mamaw, Aunt Phyllis, Chrissy, Doran and so many others.”

Gov. Andy Beshear noted McBrayer’s death in a social media post.

“I was saddened to hear of the passing of Lexington attorney and former Kentucky Rep. Terry McBrayer. He was a champion for the people, and his service in Kentucky and nationally made a lasting impact. Britainy and I lift his family in prayer.”

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell released a statement Sunday afternoon regarding McBrayer’s passing.

“For over 50 years, Terry McBrayer was a force of nature in Kentucky politics. When Terry set his mind on a goal, he refused to be outworked. That’s how a lawyer from Greenup built a national reputation and a lasting legacy.

“Terry was not only a great campaigner, but also a skilled policymaker. His time in Frankfort saw major initiatives for our commonwealth’s future. Terry’s contributions can be seen across Kentucky, especially at his cherished alma mater, Morehead State University.

“We may have come from different sides of politics, but we shared a deep love of our Commonwealth and a determination to help it succeed. Terry was always ready to extend kindness, even to political rivals.

“Elaine and I will miss Terry’s friendship and leadership in Kentucky. We send our sincere condolences to his children, family, colleagues, and friends.”

McBrayer law firm, based in Lexington, is the eighth largest in Kentucky. It has offices in Louisville, Frankfort and Washington.