LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Gatewood Galbraith spotted the man digging through a trash can during his usual Sunday drive in search of Lexington's poor and homeless.
The well-known lawyer and Kentucky political figure stopped to talk, and was surprised to see the man wearing a tie. Galbraith chatted and then left him with a couple hundred dollars.
Galbraith, who died Wednesday at age 64, took time every week to seek out the poor and homeless, friends say.
"That was his church," said Dea Riley, who ran with Galbraith during his fifth gubernatorial campaign last year. "That's what he did every Sunday and no one really knew about that."
Galbraith later told longtime friend Mike Morris that he was impressed by the homeless man's tie and "the shiniest grocery cart he's ever seen."
To the public, Galbraith was known for daring political views and a sharp sense of humor.
But close friends said he was also a humanitarian, always willing to empty his wallet or give free legal help to the needy.
Kentuckians mourned his passing on Wednesday, and lawmakers saluted him as a quick-witted muckraker who wasn't afraid to offer unpopular opinions.
"Gatewood was truly a character on the political scene," said Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat who faced Galbraith in two statewide campaigns. "He was a Republican. He was a Democrat. He was an independent. So he shared a lot of political views throughout his life. And he was courageous enough to state those views, regardless of how out of the mainstream or out of, perhaps, the realm of conventional thinking that they might be."
Galbraith argued passionately for limited government, a popular idea among Kentucky voters. He was just as outspoken about his unpopular stances to legalize marijuana and ban mountaintop mining.
On the campaign trail he was rarely seen without a straw hat as he railed against partisan bickering and reckless government spending — and kept it all light by dropping one-liners that drew chuckles from the crowd.
"Humor helps the medicine go down," Galbraith said during the campaign. "I'll die smiling."
The Kentucky House and Senate held a moment of silence for Galbraith on Wednesday.
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.
Galbraith died of complications related to chronic emphysema, according to the Fayette County coroner. He had been suffering lately with chronic congestion in his lungs.
Riley said Galbraith told her earlier this week he feeling seriously ill.
"He said it was the worst he'd ever had and he couldn't breathe," Riley said.
He died in his bed surrounded by family members.
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.
Morris, Galbraith's campaign treasurer, said Galbraith used his law degree to serve the public, and never made much money from it.
He said on one occasion a few years ago, Galbraith borrowed gas money to drive to western Kentucky to represent a man in court. Galbraith didn't have enough money for a hotel, so he slept in his car in front of the courthouse.
"And that happened more than once," Morris said. He said Galbraith worked child custody and adoption cases for free, because of "Karma."
"His Karma, is what he would say," Morris said. "He had a big heart, he really did."
Associated Press Writer Roger Alford in Frankfort contributed to this report.
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