FRANKFORT, Ky. - William McAnulty Jr., the first black Supreme Court justice in Kentucky, passed away Thursday night in his Louisville home at the age of 59.
McAnulty decided in August to resign his post after having brain surgery. Cancer from his lung he said caused by his smoking habit had spread to his brain, and he underwent surgery July 11, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
"As is well known, Justice McAnulty was a Kentucky judge for many years," Chief Justice Joseph Lambert said. "He served at every level of the Kentucky court system and did his work with dignity, grace and superb ability.
"Just last Friday all justices of the Supreme Court visited Justice McAnulty at his home. During our final visit with Bill, he continued to display his famous wit, charm and good humor."
Gov. Ernie Fletcher appointed McAnulty to the state's High Court in 2006, and later that year McAnulty earned an eight-year term in the general election. Born in Indianapolis, he served in all four levels of courts in the state over a span on 32 years.
In 1997, the Kentucky Academy of Trial Lawyers named him the state's Outstanding Judge of the Year.
"He had many friends throughout Kentucky and was a favorite among judges and court personnel," Lambert said. "Apart from the tragic personal loss to his family and friends, the Kentucky judiciary has lost an exceptional judge and one who was a trailblazer with respect to the rights of African-Americans in Kentucky."
A judicial nominating commission will choose three candidates to recommend to Fletcher, who will then choose one to take McAnulty's spot on the bench until 2008's election.