[Congressional Record Volume 158, Number 56 (Wednesday, April 18, 2012)]
[Senate]
[Pages S2489-S2490]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                    TRIBUTE TO JUDGE G. WIX UNTHANK

  Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I rise today in honor of a man who 
has made a great contribution to our Nation's judiciary system and to 
his native Commonwealth of Kentucky. The man of whom I speak has 
valiantly served in the line of duty and justly served in almost every 
level of our Nation's court system. He is a pioneer in the legal 
discipline, a patriot through and through, and a dear friend: the 
Honorable Judge G. Wix Unthank of Harlan County, KY.
  Judge Unthank has announced his retirement and will soon bang the 
gavel for the last time on June 1 of this year, ending a six-decade-
long legacy in the legal field. Although his official day-to-day job 
may be coming to an end, his public service is most likely far from 
over. Judging by the colorful life he has led thus far, I trust that 
his passion for the law and the legal system will lead him back inside 
the familiar walls of the courthouse for many years to come.
  The Honorable Judge Unthank is a solid testimony to the attainment of 
the American dream. G. Wix Unthank proved that with hard work and 
ambition you can accomplish truly anything. He was born in the small 
Harlan County, KY, town of Tway in 1923. His father, Green W. Unthank, 
and mother, Estelle Howard Unthank, were both teachers in the Harlan 
County school system. Between the two of them, they spent 68 years in 
the classroom inspiring young men and women to achieve great things. 
The emphasis placed on education in the Unthank household rubbed off on 
young Wix, and he graduated from Loyall High School in Harlan County 
with the class of 1940. That same year he enlisted in the U.S. Army and 
proudly served in World War II.
  Not even having been on this Earth for two decades, the young Mr.

[[Page S2490]]

Unthank displayed courage, bravery, and patriotism well beyond his age. 
While in the service, he was a member of the 509th Paratrooper 
Battalion. During their training, the unit practiced jumping out of 
airplanes that flew at heights of 250 to 300 feet. Squad sergeant Ernie 
Komula of Wix's battalion will never forget how surprised his men were 
when the planes wouldn't go lower than 2,000 feet once behind enemy 
lines. Despite the unfamiliar new height, Unthank and the rest of the 
men didn't think twice about jumping out of that plane and fighting for 
their beloved country.
  After completing a 5-year stint in the Army, in which he received 
both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, he was honorably discharged in 
1945. He attended the University of Kentucky for his undergraduate 
schooling. Then he went on to the University of Miami, where he 
obtained a J.D. in 1950. Once he had acquired the knowledge his parents 
had always hoped he would, Wix entered public service in what would 
turn out to be a prosperous and fulfilling professional life.
  Judge Unthank worked as a practicing attorney in Harlan County for a 
short time before running for the public office of county judge. 
Throughout his political career, Judge Unthank used the slogan ``You'll 
never be Unthankful with Unthank,'' and obviously the people never were 
because he never lost an election.
  In the summer of 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed G. Wix 
Unthank to the U.S. district court to serve as the presiding judge of 
the Eastern District of Kentucky. Eight years after his appointment, he 
assumed the honorable title of senior judge on the U.S. district court.
  After many years of successfully running the courts in the Eastern 
District, Judge Unthank was honored with a portrait unveiling ceremony 
in Lexington, KY, in 1991 and Pikeville, KY, in 1992. At the ceremonies 
the judge was honored by his colleagues, family, and friends for the 
many achievements he had been blessed with throughout his lifetime up 
until that point. His portrait was hung in the courtrooms of both 
Lexington and Pikeville, which Judge Eugene E. Siler, Jr., who led the 
ceremonies, said that he believed were among the best courtrooms in the 
United States.
  Judge Unthank was known for running a top-notch court system. He 
promoted collegiality amongst the judges and employees of the Eastern 
District. Under the leadership of Judge Unthank, they were more than 
just colleagues, they were a family. They enjoyed working together and 
seeing that the law was carried out equally and justly with each and 
every case.
  Despite the judge's high-ranking senior status, he never shied away 
from work. He had an unheard-of workload for a senior judge. Day in and 
day out, he worked through social security cases, bankruptcy appeals, 
and retirement disputes with hard work and dedication.
  The words carved into the front of the Supreme Court Building in our 
Nation's Capital read ``Equal Justice Under Law.'' That is a standard 
that we as a country hold up highly and a motto that those in the legal 
profession look to for guidance in every decision they make. Wix 
Unthank was no exception to this rule. He understands the importance of 
equal justice, and he demonstrated an unbelievable amount of integrity 
both in and out of the courtroom.
  As I have said many times before, I am not in the business of 
speculation, so I would not testify to the character of Judge G. Wix 
Unthank if I was at all unsure of it. Therefore, with the utmost 
certainty, it is my pleasure today to stand and honor the Honorable 
Judge G. Wix Unthank for his tremendous contribution to his profession, 
his community, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the United States of 
America, and I ask my Senate colleagues to join me in paying tribute to 
a brave veteran, a wise jurist, and a confirmed patriot of our great 
Nation.

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