Dedicated Alumnus and Philanthropist
From a young age, Kenneth Murrah 55C 58L wanted to help others, an aspiration that led to a career in law and a long register of people and organizations that benefited from his patronage, mentorship, and generosity.
Murrah, eighty-one, died December 5 from metastatic prostate cancer in Winter Park, Fla. A native of Pine Mountain, Murrah moved to Winter Park with his family at age twelve. Valedictorian of the Winter Park High School class of 1951, he attended Emory College and Emory School of Law as a scholarship student. Grateful for that support, he contributed each year to scholarship funds for others to have that opportunity at Emory. 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.
“Kenneth Murrah was one of the most energetic and engaging people I have ever met. In all of his communities, he sought to connect people, to make them feel welcome, to encourage them to learn from each other, and to enjoy each other’s company,” says Robert Schapiro, dean and Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law at Emory School of Law. “He dedicated his life to service, to serving his clients, his community, and Emory. Whether he was speaking to senior leaders in the arts or politics or to the newest freshmen at Emory, he radiated a genuine warmth and respect that made everyone feel welcome and at ease. He was a true Southern gentleman.”
Campus leadership positions as an undergraduate included serving as president of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and student body president. In recent years he became known as “Mr. Emory” in Central Florida, where he organized annual alumni gatherings featuring speakers from the university.
“What I will remember most about Kenneth is his wonderful Southern charm, his lovely smile, the spark in his eye, his generous spirit, and his kindness,” says Leslie Wingate, senior director of external relations at the Emory Alumni Association. “Kenneth’s energy, his zest for life, his enthusiasm, and his fervent desire to help others have been truly inspirational to me.”
Murrah’s ATO fraternity experience provided not only lifetime friends but also excellent leadership training, and he showed his appreciation throughout his adult life by endowing funds for both college scholarships and LeaderShape training for ATO members at Emory and at 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.
ATO chapter adviser Paul McLarty 63C 66L says Murrah’s backing of the chapter throughout the years has led to its current success.
“Kenneth’s greatest strength was that he never gave up on things he believed in even if they may not have been going in exactly the way everyone was happy with,” McLarty says, referring to troubles the fraternity experienced in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “He is the kind of guy who stays behind something and finds a way to make it work.”
A post from the Emory ATO Alpha Theta chapter’s Facebook page numbered Murrah’s many contributions to the chapter:
“A great and very charitable man passed away recently. Kenneth F. Murrah, a man who has given so much to this chapter, left us, but his memory and legacy lives on. The Alpha Theta chapter cannot thank him enough for all he’s given us, from influencing LeaderShape training to showing how to work hard and still be modest,” the post reads. “A special ruhrah to Kenneth F. Murrah, the leader, the president, the brother, the friend. Thank you.”
Founding partner of the law firm Murrah Doyle Wigle & Torre, Murrah specialized in estate planning and administration of estates and trusts. In his adopted hometown of Winter Park, Murrah served in many roles as a civic and cultural leader, from advocacy on the city commission and the parks and recreation board, to personal donations for a tree preservation fund and patronage of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. He served on task forces on civil rights, charter review, and commuter rail, as well as serving on committees to raise funds to furnish the city’s civic center, later named the Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center in honor of his late wife, Rachel Durrett Murrah, a longtime city commissioner in Winter Park.
In addition to his second wife, Ann Hicks Murrah, Murrah is survived by a son, Kenneth Murrah Jr., and three grandchildren.