Memorial highway dedicated in memory of the late Tom Buford

Published 12:30 pm Thursday, July 13, 2023

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By Carrie Hudson

Intern Reporter

Last Thursday, citizens and government officials of Jessamine County gathered together for a dedication of a memorial highway to honor late the late State Senator Tom Buford.

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“The text of 35-HJR7 reads, ‘The Transportation Cabinet shall designate United States Route 27X in Jessamine County as the Senator Tom Buford Memorial Highway,” Judge-Executive David West read.

The memorial highway was proposed by Senator Donald Douglas, Buford’s predecessor. Douglas stated, he didn’t aim for the highway to be politicized, but rather was a way to remember Buford.

“It is not a political thing, which is why we put ‘memorial’ . We wanted to make it about memory, not politics,” Douglas said.

Throughout the dedication, government officials recalled their favorite memories of Buford and  the legacy he had on their careers and within the Jessamine County community..

State Representative Matt Lockett, spoke of how Buford helped him during his run for office,

“As I was chairman of the local Republican Party, Tom gave me advice on certain things and certain people- very important advice. He showed me the lay-of-the-land in Jessamine County, and I knew he was only a phone call or text away. There are times where I find myself wishing Tom was still only a text or phone call away,” Lockett said.

As a Jessamine County native, many citizens were familiar with Buford. Jessamine County Judge-Executive David West, detailed Buford’s notoriety by saying, “As you move through the county, you are going to hear people who say, ‘I grew up with Tom,’ ‘I’ve known Tom forever.’ But whether you knew him for a day or fifty years, he was your friend. As we grew older, I got to know Tom a little bit more.”

West then recalled his last conversation with Buford, the night before he died.

“I talked to him on July 5…I asked him how he was doing, and he said, ‘Oh, I’m alright, you know, the doctors here are just worried.’ I said, ‘Tom, that’s not what I hear.’ Then he said, ‘Oh, no. You know, I got a little spot here, a little spot there. But it is nothing to be worried about.’ We talked for about fifteen more minutes, and just laughed,” West said.

West explained how he may be gone, but his impact far across the county is from it.

“The next day, Tom was gone. But Tom is not gone, he is always going to be here in our hearts. His marks around Jessamine County are going to live for a long time,” West said.

Moving through the dedication, Buford’s politics became a topic of discussion and praise.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer detailed Buford’s history with the Kentucky Senate, and how it has evolved through his career.

“When Tom came into the Senate, 32 years ago, Republicans were in the minority, it wasn’t even really close…Not once had the Republicans controlled the senate since this commonwealth was formed since 1792…He was a part of a group that led a historical change. When he was with eighteen Republicans joined with five rouge Democrats, to unseat the then President of the Senate, and reform a coalition government, for the first time in Kentucky history…Tom was there, when two Democrats switched parties, and for the first time in history, it gave Republicans a twenty to eighteen majority in the Kentucky State Senate,” Thayer said.

From there, Thayer expanded upon a few laws and policies Buford supported and campaigned with his position in the Senate.

“He has been part of some amazing policy changes in Kentucky: right to work, repeal of prevailing wage, unemployment insurance, pro-life laws-some of the best in the nation,” Thayer said.

The dedication ended with an unveiling of the memorial highway sign, and many smiles and cheers following the tributes to Buford.

Buford’s daughter, Stephanie Buford, empathized how special of an event it was to see everyone together honoring her dad and his work in the community.

“It is very heart-warming and touching. We as a family love to hear all of those stories and all of the memories everyone has of dad. They are all very special, not just to them, but to us as well,” she said.