Jim Lambert, who spent 39 years in education and 16 as a Daviess County commissioner, died Wednesday.

He was 82.

“Jim was one of a kind,” Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly said. “He was a people person. He bent over backward to help anyone he could.”

He said Lambert “liked to say he was just a good ol’ boy from Tywhoppity Bottoms in Hancock County. He did a lot for this county. I’m pretty down today.”

“Jim was a generous man,” County Commissioner George Wathen said. “He had a generous heart.”

He said, “We became very close friends. He helped me a lot. He was a mentor to me. I went to him for advice. People would tease us because he was a Democrat and I’m a Republican. He was a Protestant, and I’m a Catholic. But we were just really good friends. We’ll miss him. He always wanted to do the right thing for the citizens of Daviess County.”

County Commissioner Charlie Castlen said, “He was a gentleman. Jim was a good man — one of those individuals you’re glad to meet.”

He said Lambert had a deep love for history.

“When he ran the first time, he had one of those old Owensboro wagons that he took around the county to get people’s attention,” Castlen said. “That was the first time I heard of him. Jim worked his tail off for our county. And he was passionate about our parks.’

Ross Leigh, Daviess County parks director, agreed.

“Jim looked toward the future and he really wanted to improve the parks,” he said. “History was his interest. He would show up when we moved old cabins to the parks, wearing gloves and blue jeans and work with us. We lost a great man.”

Leigh said Lambert was “full of great stories. He had the best in his heart for everybody.”

In 2014, as Lambert retired from public office, Daviess Fiscal Court renamed Pioneer Village in Yellow Creek Park “James Lambert Pioneer Village.”

The village, which consisted of two log cabins, two log barns and a one-room school, was created in 2001, largely because of Lambert’s efforts.

He even found several of the buildings and worked to get them relocated to the park.

It’s now a major part of the ROMP bluegrass festival that draws more than 25,000 people a year to the park from several countries.

In 2013, when he announced his plans to retire, Lambert said, “I spent 39 years in education. And I’ve been in county government for 15. One more year is enough.”

Lambert grew up on a farm in Hancock County’s Tywhoppity Bottoms.

“My first job after college was teaching and being assistant basketball coach at Elizabethtown Catholic,” he said once. “From there, I went to Meade County as head basketball coach.”

In 1970-71, Lambert came to Daviess County as the first varsity basketball coach at Apollo High School. When Burns Middle School opened, he went there as assistant principal.

He retired in 1998 as assistant superintendent for personnel.

Lambert’s daughter, Kelly Lambert Moore, now principal at North Hancock County Elementary School, and his granddaughter, Kendell Moore, a teacher at Country Heights Elementary School, followed him into education.

After retiring, Lambert ran for the county commissioner in the county’s eastern division.

He upset Fred Marksberry, who had been in office since 1981, by 250 votes.

Lambert was reluctant to retire.

“I worked on the farm as a kid as far back as I can remember,” he said in 2013. “I’ve never not worked.”

Asked what he will do in retirement, Lambert said, “I’ve never caught an 8-pound bass. I’ve only shot two holes-in-one. I want to spend some time with my family, and I want to travel some.”

As a county commissioner, he worked to build the county’s operations center on Kentucky 81, the East County Fire Station, the Western Kentucky University-Owensboro campus, getting all county roads with at least three houses on them paved and bringing clean drinking water to nearly every home in the county.

Funeral services are pending.

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301 klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301

klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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