Kay McFarland, retired chief justice, dies at 80
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Posted by: Beth Warrington
Retired Supreme Court Justice Kay McFarland, who became the first female chief justice of the Supreme Court, died Tuesday morning in Topeka. She was 80. The KBA is saddened by the loss of one of Kansas’ finest citizens and a judicial pioneer.
She served as a district court judge in Shawnee County before she was appointed to the Kansas Supreme Court in 1977 by then-Gov. Robert Bennett. She went on to become chief justice following the retirement of Chief Justice Richard Holmes in 1995, a position she held until her own retirement in 2009.
McFarland was born July 20, 1935, in Coffeyville, the daughter of Dr. Kenneth Warren and Clara Thrall McFarland. She graduated from Washburn University in 1957 with dual majors in English and history/political science. Prior to entering law school, McFarland spent the next four years showing Tennessee walking horses from Florida to Texas.
She graduated from law school and entered private practice in 1964. In 1970, McFarland became the first woman elected to a judgeship in Shawnee County, overseeing the probate and juvenile courts. In 1972, she became the first woman elected as a Shawnee County District Court judge.
A celebration of life for McFarland will be held at Saturday at Penwell-Gabel Southwest Chapel, 3700 SW Wanamaker Rd.; burial will follow in Mount Hope Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the organization McFarland selected: Friends of the Topeka Zoo, 635 S.W. Gage Blvd., Topeka KS 66606.
Additional information: Topeka Capital-Journal