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Home / Whitewater probe

Whitewater prosecutor, former Pepperdine law dean Ken Starr dies at 76

Ken Starr, an attorney and former appeals court judge who spearheaded the Whitewater probe of Bill and Hillary Clinton that led to the president’s impeachment, and who later became dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law, died Tuesday in Texas at age 76.

According to a statement from his family, Starr — who also served as a visiting professor at the Chapman University School of Law in Orange — died due to complications from surgery at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston.

An accomplished attorney, Starr was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He also served as U.S. solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush.

But he rose to national prominence with the 1994 Whitewater investigation. While the probe was initially focused on the Clintons’ real estate dealings, it expanded widely, ultimately exploring details of the president’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky — an affair Clinton famously denied on national television before later admitting.

Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice, but he was acquitted by the U.S. Senate.

Starr became dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law in 2004.

“Starr’s vision for Pepperdine was global,” Pepperdine University President Jim Gash said in a statement released by Starr’s family. “I am profoundly grateful for Ken’s friendship, mentorship, counseling, guidance and encouragement.”

Starr remained at Pepperdine until 2010, when he left to become president of Baylor University in Texas. He stepped down from Baylor in 2016 amid questions about the university’s handling of campus sexual assaults.

Starr served as a visiting or adjunct professor at various institutions, including Chapman, Pepperdine, New York University, George Mason School of Law and the Baylor Law School. He was a partner at the national law firms of Kirkland & Ellis and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. He joined The Lanier Law Firm in 2017.

In 2020, he served on former President Donald Trump’s defense team in his Senate impeachment trial, which also ended with an acquittal.

The Texas native is survived by his wife of 52 years, Alice Mendell Starr; children Randall Starr, Carolyn Doolittle and Cynthia Roemer; sister Billie Reynolds; brother Jerry Starr; and nine grandchildren.

“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,” Randall Starr said. “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. He is now with his Lord and Savior.”

Funeral services will be held later this month in Waco, Texas.

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