Ken Starr, former Baylor president who investigated Clinton in 1990s, dies at 76

Ken Starr
Former Independent Counsel Ken Starr answers questions during a discussion held at the American Enterprise Institute on September 18, 2018, in Washington, D.C. |

Ken Starr, a former judge and independent counsel behind the 1990s impeachment proceedings against former President Bill Clinton, who also served as the president of Baylor University, has died at age 76.

The former U.S. Solicitor General died Tuesday due to complications from surgery at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston, according to a statement from his family.

Starr leaves behind his wife of 52 years, Alice Mendell Starr, three children, nine grandchildren, his sister, Billie Jeayne Reynolds, and brother, Jerry Starr.

"We are deeply saddened with the loss of our dear and loving Father and Grandfather, whom we admired for his prodigious work ethic, but who always put his family first," said son Randall Starr.

"The love, energy, endearing sense of humor, and fun-loving interest Dad exhibited to each of us was truly special, and we cherish the many wonderful memories we were able to experience with him. He is now with his Lord and Savior."

A funeral service is scheduled to be held at Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas, on Sept. 24. Starr will be buried at Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone said in a statement that Starr had "a profound impact on Baylor University" and was "a dedicated public servant and ardent supporter of religious freedom."

"Ken and I served together as Deans at Pepperdine University in the 2000s, and I appreciated him as a Constitutional law scholar and a fellow academician who believed in the transformative power of higher education," stated Livingstone.

"Baylor University and the Baylor Family express our deepest sympathies to Alice Starr and her family, and our prayers remain with them as they mourn the loss of a husband, father and grandfather. May God's peace and comfort surround them and give them strength now, and in the days to come."

Born in 1946 and the son of a minister, Starr became U.S. Solicitor General under President George H.W. Bush in 1989 after serving for over five years as a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He also served as Dean of the Pepperdine School of Law.

In the 1990s, Starr garnered national headlines for his investigation of the Clintons regarding the real estate scandal known as Whitewater. He later oversaw the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton.

His investigation uncovered Clinton's extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and led to impeachment proceedings against the president over charges of obstructing justice and lying under oath.

Lewinsky took to Twitter on Tuesday to say that her "thoughts about Starr bring up complicated feelings."

"[O]f more importance, is that i imagine it's a painful loss for those who love him," Lewinsky said. 

In 2010, Starr became the 14th president of the prominent Baptist institution Baylor University in Waco and received the title of chancellor in 2013.

Starr resigned as Baylor president in 2016 amid accusations that he failed to properly handle rape allegations against members of the school's football team.

In an interview with ESPN at the time, Starr said it was a "matter of conscience" and acknowledged that the school needed more transparency on the issue.

"The captain goes down with the ship," he said when explaining his resignation. "We need to put this horrible experience behind us. … We need to be honest."

In 2020, in what some considered Starr going full circle, he joined the legal team for Donald Trump when the Republican president faced impeachment proceedings.

Known as an advocate for religious freedom, Starr released a book in April 2021 titled Religious Liberty in Crisis: Exercising Your Faith in an Age of Uncertainty. The book warned about threats to religious freedom in the United States.

"The pandemic and the onset of the pandemic brought a new set of challenges, and I was moved to write a book which has actually been on my heart for 40 years," he told The Christian Post in an interview at the time. He wanted readers of his book to better understand the "fundamental principles of religious liberty."

"I hope that parents and grandparents will see fit to guide their children and their grandchildren to read and understand these great principles which need to be transmitted on to the rising generation." 

Religious Freedom Institute President Tom Farr mourned Starr's passing. 

“Ken Starr was my mentor, counselor, and friend. His encouragement and support played a major role in the development and launch of RFI, including its predecessor organization at Georgetown University," Farr said. "Ken’s fierce defense of religious freedom will be part of his legacy, and one that is particularly critical at this moment when religious freedom is under attack in the land that he loved.” 

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