‘I lost one of my best friends’: Close confidant reflects on the kindness and humility of Judge Starr

Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 12:21 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - One of Ken Starr’s closest confidants, Tommye Lou Davis, who served as Starr’s Chief of Staff during his tenure as Baylor President from 2010-2016, and remained a constant in his life since, is remembering her colleague and friend as “warm, down-to-earth, reachable and funny.”

Ken Starr died Tuesday at a Houston hospital surrounded by his family following a 16-week stay in the ICU after the prominent attorney developed complications from surgery in May.

Davis visited Starr while he was hospitalized and said something happened on her final visit with him that she’ll carry for a lifetime.

“He actually turned his head, opened his eyes and gave me a big smile,” Davis said. “I will cherish that smile forever. It’s worth millions to me.”

Davis and Starr’s friendship dates back to Starr’s first moments on the Baylor campus.

Davis was chosen to greet Starr’s wife, Alice, and give her a tour of Baylor and Waco. She then met Starr, who was internationally known because of his role in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, and recalls being taken back by his kind demeanor.

“My first impression was I had never met someone with his stature, so well known nationally and internationally, who was so humble and so down to earth and the minute I met him he made me feel like I was the important person.”

Davis said it was a quality she witnessed Starr display time and time again.

The two spent countless hours together, both on campus and crisscrossing the country, for Baylor events which one time included a trip to New York City to watch Robert Griffin III become Baylor’s first Heisman Trophy Winner.

Tommye Lou’s fondest memories with Starr weren’t the public events, but the private moments in which she said Starr shined the most.

Ken Starr with Tommye
Ken Starr with Tommye(Courtesy Photo)

One of her fondest memories happened when the two were walking across campus as she prepared him for a meeting.

“All of a sudden, here were these students kind of tossing a football back and forth and he just stopped everything and went like that, calling for the ball, and so they tossed him the football and he began to play catch by throwing the football back and forth with the students.”

Davis said Judge Starr always put students first, which made him popular amongst the student body.

“The students loved him because his door was always open to students,” she said. “They could just walk right into the president’s office, and we were on notice. Anytime a student came in, send them right on back.”

Davis said Starr knew how to put “first things first,” including his faith and his family.

She says Starr was active and healthy leading up to his surgery in May, which took a turn no one ever expected.

It was a battle the family decided to keep private.

“Once he had the surgery, there were just complications and setbacks,” she said. “He would take two steps forward and one step back.”

But Davis said in true Judge Starr fashion, he fought until the very end.

“Everyone really thought up until about two weeks ago that he could possibly stage a real comeback because he was such a fighter and he fought through this, and he fought through every challenge until the very end.”

“I’ve lost one of my very best friends,” Davis said through tears. “I just will always miss him, but I will always be grateful for the time that we shared, and I have such comfort in knowing he is no longer suffering. That he is whole, and I know right where he is. He is in heaven with his heavenly Father.”

Ken Starr was 76 years old.