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Longtime UK law professor dies at 83

Law professor Bill Fortune. Photo by Mark Cornelison | UKphoto

William H. “Bill” Fortune, a longtime professor in the University of Kentucky’s J. David Rosenberg College of Law, died on Monday, Jan. 29 at 83, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Fortune began teaching at the College of Law in the late 60s, retired in 2012 and later returned to teach Criminal Procedure, Evidence and Professional Responsibility, according to the Rosenberg College of Law website.

Throughout his life, he received various awards, including the KBA Thomas Spain award for his contribution to continuing legal education, the Chief Justice’s Special Service award for his work on the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct, the Henry T. Duncan Award, the KBA Young Lawyers Service Award and the HY Public Defense Minister of Justice award.

Mary Davis, dean of the Rosenberg College of Law, said that Fortune’s impact on the college itself would be difficult to calculate because it is so substantial.

“He was just a person who was committed to the things that mattered to him, and he was intentional about doing it his whole life,” Davis said.

Through his publications, Fortune made an impact by collaborating with other professors to further the history and teachings of law. These include “On the Bench,” “Call Me Mac,” “Modern Litigation and Professional Responsibility Handbook,” “Psychology and the Legal System” and “Kentucky Criminal Law,” according to the College of Law website.

“Whether it’s students or lawyers in the community, or his faculty, colleagues or even the dean, he was just a person who really gave and gave and gave to the College of Law,” Davis said.

Davis said he spent his final years finishing a biography of his colleague, Robert “Bob” Laussen, giving all of the proceeds of his book to the university’s Law Student’s Support Fund.

While committed to law education, Fortune’s noted kindness was shown through his taking on of pro bono cases throughout his career, according to the College of Law website.

“His support was constant and meaningful to people, it’s remarkable really … He lit up the place. He was very gregarious, and very friendly, and very sincerely interested in people’s welfare,” Davis said.

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