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Lexington lawyer killed, wife injured, in crash

Richard C. Ward, a prominent Lexington lawyer and community leader, died Tuesday in a one-car accident near Newport, Tenn. He was 71.

Mr. Ward's wife, Karen, was seriously injured and airlifted to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville.

The couple were returning to Lexington from their vacation home in North Carolina, said Mr. Ward's brother, J. Steve Ward of Versailles.

Richard Ward, former partner in charge of the Lexington office of the law firm Wyatt Tarrant & Combs, handled many cases involving mineral, energy and environmental law.

The National Mining Association once named him Coal Lawyer of the Year. Chambers U.S.A., a rating organization for lawyers, recognized him as a senior statesman and noted that he was looked upon as a dean of local mineral law. He was a past president of the Eastern Mineral Law Foundation. He also had taught energy law at the University of Kentucky College of Law.

Mr. Ward, a Leslie County native, was a third-generation lawyer. His father, the late Don A. Ward, was a former circuit judge of the 33rd Judicial District, including all of Perry County.

Mr. Ward's grandfather, the late Sam M. Ward, was also a former Perry circuit judge. Richard Ward practiced in Perry County before moving to Lexington. By the time Sam Ward died in 1974, the three Wards had practiced law in Perry County for more than 120 years.

Richard Ward, a 1960 graduate of Georgetown College and a 1964 graduate of the UK College of Law, was recruited to come to Lexington to practice law by former Kentucky Governor Bert T. Combs, one of the founders of Wyatt Tarrant & Combs.

"Bert was impressed by his work in Eastern Kentucky," said Debra Dawahare, a partner in Wyatt Tarrant & Combs.

"First and foremost, he was a good and decent person and he loved his family. He was devoted to his church. He was proud of his profession," Dawahare said.

At his death, Mr. Ward was a deacon at Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington and a member of the Georgetown College board of trustees.

"He was our rock. We just adored him. He was a very stabilizing individual and very easy going, but also very firm," Steve Ward said.

Dawahare said that Mr. Ward was a calm and valuable resource during difficult parts of litigation.

"He knew how to unravel an impossible situation," she said.

In addition to his wife and brother, who is Woodford County's coroner, Mr. Ward is survived by two sons, John Ward of Hebron and Jeff Ward of Indianapolis; his mother, Hazel Fox Ward of Lexington; two other brothers, Don F. Ward of Evansville, Ind., and Sam M. Ward of Louisville; and two grandchildren.

Arrangements were pending at Blackburn & Ward Funeral Home in Versailles.

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