Judicial portraits return to western Ky courthouse

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Associated Press

Posted on June 17, 2013 at 7:02 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 17 at 7:02 PM

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — A series of portraits depicting all of the circuit judges who served even before Daviess County existed is back on display at the county courthouse.

Daviess County Circuit Judge Robert Short undertook the history project in the 1970s, either to find or replace each of the 22 pictures of the jurist. The last photos went up earlier this year.

Circuit Judge Joe Castlen told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer (http://bit.ly/12QlUKT ) that some of the pictures were lost while others were pilfered by people who wanted the frames, but not the portrait of the judge.

"Some people called folks and said, 'if you want to protect your ancestor's portrait, come and get it,'" Castlen said.

The portraits were originally collected between 1905 and 1919. There are 22 portraits in all, and 13 of them were found between 2005 and 2013.

Castlen's courtroom in the Morton J. Holbrook Judicial Center is filled with portraits of judges leading up to 1958, when Circuit Court was split into two divisions. Castlen's courtroom contains all of the Division II judges, while portraits of Division I judges hang in Judge Jay Wethington's courtroom.

Recovering the portraits and tracking down biographical information on each of the judges was a process that involved research and the help of painters, historians and photography experts. The process also required a bit of luck — a photo that was used to recreate a portrait was found, dirty and faded, in the closet of a relative, Castlen said.

"You could barely tell it was (the judge), it was so dirty," he said.

Earlier this year, the portrait of Judge Charles Wintersmith, who served from 1867 and 1868, was the last to be hung.

"It has been interesting. I have learned so much about Daviess County," Castlen said.

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Information from: Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, http://www.messenger-inquirer.com

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