Former Baylor President Ken Starr dies at 76

Ken Starr is interviewed by Maina Mwaura for Religion News Service. (RNS video screenshot)


Ken Starr, the former independent counsel in the Clinton administration Whitewater investigation who later became president and chancellor of Baylor University, died Sept. 13 at age 76.

Starr, former U.S. Solicitor General and a U.S. circuit court judge, died at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston due to complications from surgery, a statement from his family said.

Starr 130
Ken Starr

Starr was elected president of Baylor University in February 2010, and he concurrently held the title of university chancellor beginning in November 2013.

Baylor’s board of regents removed Starr as president in May 2016, citing the university’s “fundamental failure” to handle sexual violence complaints appropriately under his leadership. He soon resigned as chancellor and later stepped down as a professor at the Baylor Law School.

However, for six years, Starr oversaw significant expansion at Baylor, including construction of McLane Stadium, the Hart Track and Field Stadium, the Paul Foster Campus for Business and Innovation and Elliston Chapel, along with renovation of three residence halls.

He also led in fundraising for the university, beginning with his first major project—completing ahead of schedule the $100 million President’s Scholarship Initiative.

During Starr’s time as president, Baylor also took significant steps toward becoming a top-tier research university, expanding the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative and establishing the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences.

Praised for public service and scholarship

“Judge Starr had a profound impact on Baylor University, leading a collaborative visioning process to develop the Pro Futuris strategic vision in 2012 that placed Baylor on the path to where we are today as a Christian Research 1 institution,” President Linda Livingstone said.

“Judge Starr was a dedicated public servant and ardent supporter of religious freedom that allows faith-based institutions such as Baylor to flourish,” Livingstone said.

Sign up for our weekly edition and get all our headlines in your inbox on Thursdays

Noting she and Starr served together as deans at Pepperdine University, she added, “I appreciated him as a Constitutional law scholar and a fellow academician who believed in the transformative power of higher education.”

Livingstone expressed condolences on behalf of the university and the Baylor Family to Alice Starr and the rest of Starr’s family.

“May God’s peace and comfort surround them and give them strength now, and in the days to come,” she said.

Tommye Lou Davis, Starr’s chief of staff at Baylor, spoke of the “great honor” to serve alongside him.

“His warm, inclusive personality brought the campus uniquely together. He was deeply loved by students, highly respected by faculty and staff, and greatly admired by alumni and the broader Baylor family,” Davis said.

“Judge Starr’s brilliant mind, affable personality and tireless efforts on behalf of the university have left an indelible mark on all of us fortunate enough to have worked with him. I will always be grateful for his friendship, dynamic leadership and selfless service to Baylor University.”

Kenneth Winston Starr was born July 21, 1946, to William D. and Vannie Trimble Starr, and he grew up in San Antonio.

He earned his undergraduate degree from George Washington University, a master’s degree in political science from Brown University, and his Juris Doctor degree from Duke University.

Starr argued 36 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including 25 as U.S. Solicitor General from 1989 to 1993. He was U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1983 to 1989.

From 1989 to 1993, he was the independent counsel who led an investigation into the Whitewater real estate investments of President Bill Clinton. The inquiry expanded into other areas, including suspected perjury by Clinton regarding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

The allegation in the Starr Report that Clinton lied about the sexual relationship with Lewinsky in a sworn deposition led to Clinton’s impeachment.

After Starr left Baylor University, he worked with the Lanier Law Firm and was a commentator for Fox News.

Starr is survived by his wife of 52 years, Alice; son Randall P. Starr and wife Melina; daughter Carolyn Doolittle and husband Cameron; daughter Cynthia Roemer and husband Justin; nine grandchildren; a sister, Billie Jeayne Reynolds; and a brother, Jerry Starr.

Lori Fogleman of Baylor University contributed to this article.

We seek to connect God’s story and God’s people around the world. To learn more about God’s story, click here.

Send comments and feedback to Eric Black, our editor. For comments to be published, please specify “letter to the editor.” Maximum length for publication is 300 words.