Madison County Judge Executive Reagan Taylor announced by Executive Order 20-01 that the flag located outside of the Madison County Courthouse at 101 West Main Street in Richmond be lowered to half-staff in honor of former Madison County Circuit Court Judge James S. Chenault. The flag will be lowered to half-staff beginning immediately until sunrise on Jan. 23.
Chenault passed away Thursday at the age of 96. Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. on Wednesday at the First Presbyterian Church in Richmond. Visitation will be 4-8 p.m. Tuesday at the church, located at 330 West Main Street in Richmond.
On September 30, 1966, Governor Edward T. Breathitt appointed him Circuit Judge for the 25th Judicial Circuit. He served with high distinction for 27 years, retiring on September 30, 1993. Judge Chenault was one of the drafters of the circuit court portion of the Judicial Article that was approved and adopted as part of Kentucky’s Constitution in 1975, thus giving Kentucky the most modern and innovative court system in the United States.
Perhaps his major contribution to the improvement of the courts on a national basis was his introduction of video as the official trial court record in all jury trials in Madison Circuit Court in 1982. This was the first successful use of video as the official court record in the United States (and so far as can be ascertained, in the world). The video use led to the awarding to the State of Kentucky a $100,000 grant by the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University for “Innovations in the Courts.” He also placed all jury trials in Madison and Clark Counties on public access television as he believed openness brought respect to the court system.
Chenault graduated Model High School and entered the United States Navy as an Apprentice Seaman, in May 1943 during World War II. He served in the Pacific aboard the destroyer escort, USS Lamons, rising to Quartermaster, Third Class. He returned to the United States and attended USNR Midshipmen’s School, was commissioned an Ensign, and returned to the Pacific serving aboard the cruiser, USS Topeka. He was honorably discharged from active duty in July 1946, having attained the rank of Lieutenant (j.g.).
He graduated from Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky Law School where he served as President of the law school Student Bar Association. After law school, he commenced solo practice in Richmond, Kentucky. During this period, he served as Prosecuting Attorney for the City of Richmond and Commonwealth’s Attorney for the 25th Judicial Circuit. He served as President of the Younger Lawyers Conference of the KBA, President of the Madison County Bar Association and President of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Association.
He is survived by his daughter, Judge Jean Chenault Logue and her husband, Howard Logue, his grandsons James Howard Logue and Seth Logue.