LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Gatewood Galbraith, a lawyer and five-time candidate for Kentucky governor known as an advocate for limited government and legalizing marijuana, has died, officials said Wednesday. He was 64.
Galbraith was pronounced dead Wednesday morning at his Lexington home of complications from chronic emphysema after suffering for several days with congestion in his lungs, according to the Fayette County coroner's office.
He died in his bed surrounded by family members, a statement from the coroner said.
One of Kentucky's best-known political figures, Galbraith used humor on the campaign trail while railing against partisan bickering, government spending and advocating pot legalization and hemp farming in Kentucky. He also was rarely seen without a straw-colored hat.
"Unlike other politicians, Gatewood told you the truth," said Mike Morris, Galbraith's longtime friend and campaign treasurer.
In the November election, Galbraith, an independent, came in third behind Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who was re-elected, and Republican David Williams, the state senate president.
"He was a gutsy, articulate and passionate advocate who never shied away from a challenge or potential controversy," Beshear said Wednesday.
Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell said Galbraith was "a truly memorable character who loved our state and its people."
Dea Riley, who ran for lieutenant governor alongside Galbraith in last year's campaign, said Galbraith told her earlier this week he wasn't feeling well.
"He said it was the worst he'd ever had and he couldn't breathe," she said.
Riley said she had a great admiration for Galbraith. She said it wasn't widely known, but Galbraith would spend every Sunday seeking out and helping the homeless in and around Lexington.
"That was his church," she said. "That's what he did every Sunday and no one really knew about that."
Riley said Galbraith discovered marijuana's medicinal uses when it was recommended he try it to help with his asthma.
"He never had another asthma attack after that," she said. "That's what caused his pot advocacy."
Galbraith called for marijuana to be licensed and regulated for medical use and said industrial hemp should be a legal cash crop in Kentucky. The controversial stance often drew attention away from the rest of his platform, he said. He also wanted to end mountaintop removal, a surface mining practice that uses blasting and earth movers to reach coal.
Country music star Willie Nelson, a proponent of marijuana legalization, threw his support behind Galbraith in last year's election, saying he and Galbraith "believe the same way about a whole lot of things."
Born in Nicholas County in 1947, Galbraith earned his law degree from the University of Kentucky in 1977.
He previously ran for governor twice as a Democrat and twice as a Reform Party candidate. He also ran for congress and as an independent in the 2003 attorney general's race.
"My view is that government's role should be to uplift, enlighten, educate and ennoble the citizen, not oppress them with taxation and intrusive laws," Galbraith wrote on his campaign website.
He published an autobiography titled "The Last Free Man in America," and handed it out at campaign events.
Galbraith is survived by three daughters. Milward Funeral Directors in Lexington is handling the funeral arrangements.
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