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Former Louisville Mayor Dave Armstrong Has Died

Dave Armstrong
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Former Louisville Mayor David Armstrong has died at the age of 75.

Armstrong, an attorney, served as the last mayor of the City of Louisville from 1999 through 2002, after which city and county governments merged. More recently, he spent seven years as chairman of the Kentucky Public Service Commission before retiring in 2015.

Armstrong's wife, Carol, confirmed Armstrong's death to WFPL News. She said he died peacefully Wednesday night. His death was first reported by The Courier-Journal. The newspaper reported that he was battling the disease myasthenia gravis and was under hospice care.

Carol Armstrong said David Armstrong was a family man, despite the long hours he’d often work practicing law or in public service.

“I wouldn’t have been married to him all these years if he hadn’t been a good husband and father,” she said.

The two were married 53 years. They had two kids and two grandchildren.

She said Armstrong preferred work over leisure activities like golf or fishing, though he occasionally enjoyed a round with his family.

She said his career in public service was fueled by his passion for wanting to do good for others.

"I am most proud of him standing up to do what might not be popular things because he knew it was the right thing to do,” she said.

For instance, she remembers in 2000 when Armstrong opted to fire the then-head of the Louisville Police Department, Gene Sherrard, after Sherrard held an awards ceremony for two officers who fatally shot an 18-year-old who was attempting to flee in a stolen vehicle.

At the time, Armstrong called the awards ceremony “insensitive” and the firing of Sherrard led many officers to protest Armstrong.

“They marched on City Hall,” Carol Armstrong said. “That was a difficult time, but it was the right thing for him to do.”

'Able To Read The Future'

Former and longtime Metro Council member Tom Owen said he’ll remember Armstrong for his steady commitment to public service.

He said Armstrong was not a cheerleader or known for flashy rhetoric, but rather a visionary who championed projects like the Louisville Extreme Park - which bears his name - and an e-commerce district just east of downtown.

“He was capable of compromise,” Owen said. “He was able to read the future.”

Owen said the two squared off for mayor in a close, hard fought race. But Armstrong was a gentleman and harbored no bitterness.

In addition to serving as mayor, Armstrong also served two terms as the Jefferson County judge-executive. He was elected attorney general of Kentucky in 1983 and also served as commonwealth’s attorney.

Armstrong also helped land the developer behind Fourth Street Live.

Carol Armstrong praised her husband's efforts to spearhead the redevelopment of downtown Louisville and his work to establish the Jefferson Memorial Forest, among other things.

“I could go on and on,” she said.

More recently, before Armstrong’s health began to fade, the two enjoyed to spend time with friends and family. They’d go out to eat at Audubon Country Club and take trips with family.

On Thursday, Carol Armstrong sat in her home watching the television when a banner flashed across the screen announcing her husband’s death.

The news wasn’t news to her, but her voice trailed off.

“I don’t think it’s hit me yet," she said.

In a statement, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer called Armstrong a "true public servant."
"[He dedicated] most of his life to the city and the state as a judge, mayor, county judge-executive and Attorney General. His dedication to public service ranks him among the greats in the history of our Commonwealth," Fischer said. "He had a vision for a vibrant downtown and passion for Louisville being a great place to live, work and play. And his dreams were realized. Most importantly, he was a generous and loving husband, father and grandfather -- and a mentor to me and many others. Our entire community celebrates his legacy."
U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell called Armstrong "an incredible Kentuckian."
"I was proud to know Dave during his nearly five decades of public service, and I firmly believe that the city of Louisville and the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky admired him for his leadership and care," McConnell said. "We will all miss Dave’s compassion, dedication, and vision for our city and our state.  Along with our entire community, Elaine and I send our deepest condolences to Dave’s wife, Carol, his family, and his friends.”
Greater Louisville Inc. President and CEO Kent Oyler also touted Armstrong's impact on Louisville's economic development during his time as mayor.
“Dave Armstrong spent decades as a dedicated public servant for both the city of Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky," he said. "GLI worked with his administration through the city-county merger and many other projects that built some of downtown Louisville’s most famous assets like Fourth Street Live!, the Skate Park, and Louisville Glassworks. We are saddened to hear of his passing and offer our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends. His legacy will live on the city he led."
This story has been updated.