The city of culture and heritage lost one of its most beloved public figures this month as he passed away following a lifetime of service to Winter Park.
Kenneth Francis Murrah died on Dec. 5 of prostate cancer. He was 81.
Murrah is held in high regard for his contributions to the arts, pushing for the protection of the city’s tree canopy and his great knowledge of Winter Park history.
“He was a fine champion for everything from the library to the valedictorians to our arts community, not just in Winter Park but in Central Florida,” Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley said. “He put his money where his mouth is too.”
“Our city has suffered a major loss.”
The Winter Parker served as a city commissioner as well as the chairman of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum Board of Visitors and the president of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce.
Debbie Komanski, executive director of the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden, said she fondly remembered how passionately he spoke of Winter Park, charming listeners with his southern Georgia accent.
“He was truly an inspiring lover of our city of Winter Park, who devoted his whole career and life to this city,” Komanski said. “What came through more than anything else was his love of Winter Park.”
Murrah showed a great deal of support for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra in its early years when he and his wife transferred two Florida Symphony endowments ¬— the Harrison Hollander Trust and the Charlotte Julia Hollander Trust — to the orchestra. The Murrahs also made a $500,000 commitment to establishing the orchestra’s new home at The Plaza Live Theatre.
In 1986, Kenneth and first wife, Rachel, were responsible for organizing CIVIC (Citizens Investing in the Community), a group that led the effort to get the community involved in "furnishing" the Winter Park Civic Center.
The center was dedicated to Rachel Murrah on Dec. 12, 2001.
“The Murrah family's dedication and service to Winter Park is legion,” reads the Winter Park library website.
Ken Murrah first came to Winter Park in 1944, attending Park Avenue Elementary School as a sixth grader. He graduated from Winter Park High School as a valedictorian in 1951 before graduating from Emory University and the Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Ga.
He practiced law through his Winter Park firm, Murrah, Doyle & Wigle, specializing in estate planning and trust administration.
Bradley most of all noted Murrah’s kind and friendly demeanor.
“He was a man of great stature,” Bradley said. “As I reflect on him, first and foremost he was a gentleman and a gentle man.”
“I’m sure he didn’t agree with everybody on all things, but he did it in a very gentle way and you were still friends afterwards, which I think is the epitome of what it means to be in Winter Park.”
City commissioners gave the green light during their meeting on Dec. 8 to begin searching for an appropriate building or entity to name after Murrah.
The First United Methodist Church of Winter Park will host a celebration of Murrah's life on Jan. 4 at 4 p.m., featuring music from members of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra at 3:30 p.m.