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H. Foster Pettit


1930 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
H. Foster Pettit Obituary

PETTIT H. Foster, whose unflagging devotion to Lexington resulted in a half century of public service, died surrounded by family on Saturday in Hammond, Louisiana from the effects of an infection incurred in a boating accident in the Plaquemines Parish last month. He was 84. He was first elected to public office in 1964, and remained active in civic affairs and a wide range of non-profit causes until his last illness. One of his last civic efforts was an appearances gbefore the Urban County Council last summer, urging continued city support for the ongoing renovation of the First National Building to become a 21C hotel. Pettit's political career began in 1964 when he was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives, representing a district that covered a one mile radius from the Old Courthouse. He served for six years. He was recruited to run for Mayor of the old city government in 1971 as a reform candidate, and he won office in a three way race. Pettit considered his signature achievement to be the merger of the Lexington and Fayette County governments in 1973, presiding over the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government as its first elected mayor from 1974-77. During his tenure as mayor he was instrumental in the initial construction of Lexington Center and Rupp Arena, the restoration of the Opera House, the construction of Bluegrass Airport, the inception of LexArts, and with the creation of McConnell Springs. In 1979, Gov. John Y. Brown, Jr. recruited Pettit to join his administration as Secretary of Public Protection and Regulation, where he served for two years while implementing reforms in State purchasing that brought both higher transparency and taxpayer savings. Even after his political career, he continued work on Lexington's behalf, including a stint as President of The Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation and as Chairman of FLOAT, an effort in 2004 to put Lexington's water company into public hands. His other civic activities included involvement with the local Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Chamber of Commerce and First Presbyterian Church, which he attended his entire life. At the time of his death he was counsel with the law firm Wyatt Tarrant & Combs, where he was a partner for more than two decades. Descended from some of Lexington' s earliest settlers, Pettit was born on August 24, 1930 in Lexington to Dunster Foster and William Pettit. He attended local schools and Woodberry Forest School in Orange, VA, and graduated from the University of Virginia with both a bachelors and law degree. In 1952, he enlisted with the U.S. Air Force and learned Russian at the Army language School in Monterrey, CA for his assignment to Samsun, Turkey, where he intercepted radio communications from the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. He spent the last eleven years as an enthusiastic resident of Downtown with his beloved wife, Brenda, when not traveling extensively across the world. In addition to Brenda, he is survived by his sons, Noble Gregory Pettit of Lexington; Harrison Foster Pettit, Jr. (Lisa Pearlstein) of Portland, Oregon; Van Meter Pettit (Linda Blackford) of Lexington; five grandsons, Addison and Cassius Pettit of Portland, Oregon and Staige, Hale and Hart Mason Pettit of Lexington; three nephews, a niece, as well as four stepchildren, Alison Byrd (Edwin), Kurt Cummings (Danielle), Emily Lofton (Travis) of Shreveport LA, Courtney Caulfield (Lance) of Mandeville, LA; and seven step grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a brother, William Pettit III, a sister Dunster Pettit and by a son, Hale Pettit. A funeral service will be held at 2:30pm on Saturday November 29th at First Presbyterian Church on North Mill St. followed by a public reception at the Carnegie Center in Gratz Park. Donations may be made to the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation, 253 Market St. Lexington, KY 40507, or First Presbyterian Church.
Published in Lexington Herald-Leader on Nov. 24, 2014
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