Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em. This week sees the end of one of Harrodsburg’s most venerable and colorful institutions. Local attorney David Taylor—known by some as the Notorious D.A.T.–is retiring after 56 years.
They’re having a retirement party and 80th birthday party on Friday, June 17, at the Glengary (2192 Lexington Road). You don’t need to bring a gift, but cigars and lunch money will not be turned down.
Taylor said he still enjoyed practicing law, but it was time to retire.
“After a while, your body and mind will tell you when it’s time to go home,” Taylor said Monday. “It’s time to go home.”
Since the summer of 1966, Taylor has been practicing law from the same office in the same building on Short Street. He has become as much of a downtown landmark as any of the historic buildings, serving twice as Harrodsburg’s city attorney and once as assistant county attorney under Mike Conover. Taylor was even elected police judge, the predecessor of the current district judge, back in 1969. Over the years, he has been a firsthand witness of a revolution in how the law was handled at the local level.
“For the most part, it’s an improvement,” Taylor said Monday. “The circuit judge would call you at five minutes to nine and appoint you to represent this guy.” Taylor remembered being given minutes to come up with a defense.
“When is the trial? Right now, as soon as you get done talking to him,” Taylor recalled. He said the creation of the public defenders office was a major change for the better.
“At least they have the chance of presenting some sort of defense instead of being blind sided,” Taylor said. He also approved the limits on sentencing.
“It stopped the 5,000 years bull—,” said Taylor, who has enlivened many a city commission meeting with his unfiltered opinions. He said the creation of the district court was also a positive development.
“They have taken the small cases that were mainly considered pains in the butt to the circuit judge,” Taylor said. “The district judge has more time to consider the case.”
Taylor, who did his under grad work at Eastern Kentucky University but collected his law degree at the University of Kentucky, said he always wanted to be a lawyer. His grandfather served as the county attorney from 1881-1898.
“My family had a great interest in politics. In fact, growing up, I don’t remember a meal including breakfast where we didn’t talk politics,” Taylor said. His mother’s father was a precinct worker and Taylor remembered candidates would sit on his grandfather’s front porch and talk for hours.
While Taylor grew up in a political family, his one term as police judge back in 1969 was the end of his political career. At least as a candidate.
“I’ve never liked being a candidate,” Taylor said. “I’d get paranoid.”
Taylor is a walking history of Harrodsburg and Mercer County. With little prompting, he can recount some of the thrilling legal conflicts of yesteryear, such as one sensational murder trial in the 1930s, when Taylor said George Chinn was stationed outside the courthouse with a machine gun to mow down any gang members who tried to bust the accused out of jail. But most of Taylor’s career has been spent helping everyday people navigate the system.
“For 20 years I did income taxes,” Taylor said. “I got too successful. I was doing 800 returns by myself back before we had computers.”