Ken Starr, Special Counsel During Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal, Dies at 76

AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke

Ken Starr has had a long and storied career, not all of it favorable to either the left or the right. Starr was an appellate court judge serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. At 37, he was the youngest person to ever to serve on the court, before being tapped by President George H.W. Bush for solicitor general in which role he served from 1989 to 1993.


However, instead of being nominated to the United States Supreme Court as many court watchers surmised, Starr’s career-defining role as Whitewater Special Counsel would also define his life and a presidency. Starr was tasked with investigating President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton concerning a questionable Arkansas land deal. This investigation uncovered Clinton’s affair with the young intern Monica Lewinsky, and subsequently led to the second impeachment of a president in U.S. history.

Ken Starr died Tuesday in Houston, from complications of surgery. He was 76.

From the New York Post:

“We are deeply saddened with the loss of our dear and loving father and grandfather, whom we admired for his prodigious work ethic, but who always put his family first,” his son Randall said in a statement.

“The love, energy, endearing sense of humor, and fun-loving interest dad exhibited to each of us was truly special, and we cherish the many wonderful memories we were able to experience with him.”

Starr was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to a seat on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 1983. He served in that post for nearly six years before resigning to become solicitor general, with current Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts as his principal deputy.

Bush reportedly considered Starr for the Supreme Court nomination that ultimately went to David Souter.


Starr resigned as counsel in the Whitewater matter in 1999 and moved back into private practice, where he notoriously represented the late financier and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein pleaded guilty to solicitation charges in 2008, but as we know now, this deal was questionable on a number of levels.

Starr moved into academia, becoming the dean of Pepperdine University Law School from 2004 to 2010. Starr then became president of Baylor University in 2010 and also served as its chancellor in 2013. Starr’s career at Baylor was overshadowed by a series of alleged sexual assaults, many committed by football players. An independent investigation in 2016 purported that the university had mishandled the allegations. Starr was removed as president, and soon after resigned as chancellor.

Starr published his memoir, Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation, in 2018. In another career twist, Starr was invited to join former President Donald J. Trump’s defense team in 2020 for his first impeachment trial before the Senate. Starr served alongside Alan Dershowitz and Robert W. Ray, who was the counselor who took over the Whitewater investigation when Starr resigned.


Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

Starr, the youngest of three children, was born July 21, 1946, in Vernon, Texas. His father was a barber and part-time minister in the Church of Christ. His mother was the daughter of farmers. According to Brittanica, Starr sold bibles door-to-door to earn money for college. Starr received his Bachelor of Arts in 1968 from George Washington University, and his Master of Arts in 1969 from Brown University In 1973, he earned his Juris Doctorate from Duke University.


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