Lawrence E. "Larry" Forgy Jr.
Thursday 13th of January 2022
Lawrence E. (Larry) Forgy, Jr. of Lexington, Kentucky, passed away on January 13, 2022 at the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital. He was born August 4, 1939, in Lewisburg, Kentucky, to the late Lawrence E. Forgy, Sr. and Mary Greene Forgy. Larry grew up in Morgantown, Kentucky, and in Lewisburg, where his father was a merchant and his mother taught school for many years until her retirement.
As a distinguished attorney, public servant, and political figure, Larry’s long career spanned six decades and earned him a place as one of the Commonwealth’s most memorable and enduring personalities, who was known for his intelligence, colorful wit, and rhetorical brilliance. He attended school in Morgantown and then graduated from high school in Lewisburg, his parents’ hometown where they moved in the mid-1950s to help run the family business. He excelled in both academics and in sports, averaging 19 points per game in his senior season (1956-57) and receiving a scholarship to play basketball at the University of Tennessee at Martin. Larry transferred to University of Kentucky after two years at UT-Martin and, after one year there, completed his undergraduate studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. While in Washington, Larry worked as a US Capitol guard while attending the George Washington College of Law, where he obtained his law degree in 1964. While working as a Capitol guard, he began life-long acquaintances with several US Senators and representatives, which he maintained in later years. As a Capitol guard, Larry developed a lifelong friendship with a fellow guard, Harry Reid of Nevada, who later became a US Senator and majority leader. The two maintained regular contact in the ensuing years.
While working in Washington, Larry met his future wife, Frances Anderson of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who was executive secretary to Congressman T.A. Thompson. The two were married in 1963, and their son John was born in 1966. After graduation from law school, Larry served as legal counsel to the Joint Committee on Taxation. But events in Kentucky called him home in 1967.
The Forgy family of Logan and Butler Counties had a long history of political activism and involvement. Larry’s grandfather, Pearl Forgy, was instrumental in persuading Governor Flem Sampson to pave Highway 431 between Lewisburg and Central City in the 1920s. Larry’s father, Lawrence, was a longtime chairman of the Logan County Republican Party and served as a local contact person during the Eisenhower administration. Through his contacts, Larry served as driver for Senator John Sherman Cooper during his successful campaigns and for Senator Thruston B. Morton in his successful 1962 campaign. Larry became a companion of Senator Cooper’s and drove him in Washington D.C. until his return to Kentucky in 1967. Larry’s father’s connections facilitated Larry’s move to Washington in 1960, as well as his return to Kentucky in 1967.
In November of 1967, Louie B. Nunn of Barren Co. was elected as Kentucky’s first Republican governor since 1943. Governor Nunn assembled a group of advisors known as the “whiz kids,” including such notables as Eugene Goss, Tom Emberton, and Jim Host. Included in the group was Larry Forgy, who served Governor Nunn as state budget director, deputy commissioner of finance, director of asset management and legal counsel. While living in Frankfort, Fran and Larry’s daughter, Katherine, was born in June of 1969. In 1971, Larry was offered a senior position at UK by President Otis Singletary and served there as Vice President of Finance until 1975.
While Vice President at UK, Larry met and impressed former Kentucky governor and US Court of Appeals Judge Bert T. Combs, who persuaded him to join his law firm, Tarrant, Combs and Bullitt, in Louisville Kentucky. Larry practiced law with the firm, which later became what is now Wyatt, Tarrant and Combs, for a dozen years, in both its Louisville and Lexington offices. But his interests and activities never ventured far from the political arena. In 1980, he was selected as state campaign chairman for the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan. Under Larry’s leadership, Governor Reagan narrowly carried Kentucky and won the national election. Larry then served for several years as Kentucky's member on the Republican National Committee, a position he often mentioned as being the most interesting of his political life.
In 1981, Larry and his family moved from Louisville to Lexington. While maintaining his association with the law firm, Larry also became president of the South East Coal Sales Company, headquartered in Lexington and then a major producer and supplier in the coal industry. At the same time, he was instrumental in representing the interests of tobacco farmers in maintaining the tobacco price support program that was threatened at the time.
In 1984, Larry was asked again to lead President Reagan's election effort. Campaigning for both President Reagan and Jefferson County Judge Mitch McConnell for U.S. Senator, he was able to lead Reagan to one of the largest majorities ever obtained in Kentucky, which also led to a victory for McConnell.
Fresh off of his political and legal successes, Larry was encouraged by Republican party leaders to run for Kentucky governor in 1987. After seriously considering a run, Larry declined the opportunity for personal reasons.
In 1987, Larry moved from the Wyatt law firm to the firm of Stoll, Keenan, and Park in Lexington, where he practiced for several years. In 1991, Larry made the surprise late decision to enter the Republican primary for governor in that year's election. While limiting contributions to $300 per donor and being substantially outspent by his opponent, Congressman Larry Hopkins, Larry barely lost the nomination by a one percent margin (1,000 votes statewide).
Larry served on the Board of Georgetown College for a period of time. He also served for several years as a member of the UK Board of Trustees, where he chaired various committees. In 1995, with strong encouragement from party leaders, Larry committed early to run for governor in that year's election. Defeating his only major Republican opponent in the primary by a substantial margin, Larry won the nomination and faced Lieutenant Governor Paul Patton in the general election. After a narrow two percent loss in one of the closest races for Kentucky Governor up to that time, Larry joined the Lexington office of the Cincinnati-based law firm, Frost and Jacobs, where he continued his legal practice.
On a personal level, Larry and Fran were proud of their son, John, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University in Washington DC and went on to earn a law degree from the UK College of Law, and of their daughter, Katherine, who received her degree from Vanderbilt University and went on to become a school psychologist in the Fayette County school system, where she continues to work today. Larry was particularly proud of Katherine's two daughters, Olivia and Virginia Peppiatt, both of whom are currently college students at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.
Larry continued to practice law at the Frost firm in Lexington until 2004, when he joined the Sheffer Law Firm in Louisville in order to further his insurance defense practice. In 2005, he established his own Frankfort-based law firm where he developed a nursing home defense practice that sustained him and several associates for many years. He was particularly pleased when his son, John, joined the practice in 2010. Together, Larry, John and other firm associates tried numerous nursing home defense cases in eastern Kentucky state courts with remarkable success.
In early 2014, at age 74, Larry suffered a stroke that curtailed his ability to try cases and practice law. While John and others maintained the law practice, Larry was largely limited to an advisory role. This did not deter him, however, from actively supporting Matt Bevin in his successful gubernatorial primary and general election campaigns in 2015. During the Bevin administration, Larry served as an unofficial adviser to Gov. Bevin.
Larry was preceded in death by his wife, who passed away in 2020, his parents, Lawrence (1981) and Mary (1999), and his brother, Freddie, who died in a tragic car accident in 1969.
Larry is survived by his son, John, his daughter, Katherine, his two granddaughters, Olivia and Virginia Peppiatt, his sister, Senator Alice Forgy Kerr, his brother-in-law, Randy Lutke, and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews. The family would also like to thank Larry’s special friend and caregiver, John Brown, for his years of friendship and service.
A time of visitation will be held at Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington on Monday, January 17, 2022 from 11am to 2pm, with a funeral service following at 2pm. A live stream of the service can be viewed by following this link: Forgy Live Stream which will be active on the day of the service.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the United Way of Kentucky at uwky.org/tornado for tornado relief in Mayfield, KY (Graves Co.) and Bowling Green, KY (Warren Co.).
John & Katherine: I was sorry to hear of your father’s passing and sorry again to realize your mom had passed 2 years ago. Your dad and I played a lot of tennis from ‘75 to ‘80 and I learned a lot of social skills from him and his sense of humor. He was a fine friend and mentor and I also enjoyed your mother’s many talents, especially her paintings, several of which now hang in my children’s homes. They were gifted for some medical assistance I was able to offer to your mom. I have always held both of you and your family in high esteem. May God bless you both !
One of the better experiences of my life, was having Larry as a friend. When speaking of a friend, he would often say, "he is a person you would want in your fox hole when trouble comes your way" We were friends for many years, met many challenges and I found him to be the one I wanted in my fox hole
Sandra Brown Wattenbergersays
Mr Forgy, "Brownie" has been waiting in heaven for you since 1988. As you may imagine, he has pent-up issues to discuss. He should keep you amused for a very long time....RIP
Alice My thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Your brother was a remarkable man. No one ever loved Kentucky more. Peace
I write a little more than usual as a tribute to a friend. A good journalist friend was first, this morning, to tell me the prominent Republican, Larry Forgy, had died. Larry came into my grocery a few times after the store's many newspaper stories of the Woodland Club. He had known dad and mom years before, seeming each time to not know mom had died years before. Also, Larry loved our cheap bologna sandwiches. As a long time visitor with Larry which began with his days in the medical floor of Mayfair Assisted Living, next to - but not part of Mayfair Nursing Home. I had many great conversations and deep laughs with him and other great folks that I often would take along. He was also guilty of witty remarks to women residents at Mayfair, particularly two female medical staff from a former Russian protectorate. Different times, I took along the journalist who notified me this morning, one federal judge, one Herald-Leader photojournalist, one UK Dean of Students staff but most importantly, Al Smith - newsman. Al always had political stories to share, both publicly on radio and KET, as did Larry. Some of the stories were because both of them had been residents of Logan Co. Their stories of politics and corruption were some of the best to remember and to record (and I will). But seeing Larry a lot meant I heard many stories about corruption and unethical behavior even of some KY figures at the national level. I thank Larry Forgy for those experiences and times together.
Many conversations and memories will be with me, this political radical, for the rest of my life especially taking Larry to Len Press's memorial and bringing Al Smith to Larry's.. I thank him for being a friend, many experiences and I do hope to learn more from his family and friends.