Ralph M. King, Jr, 89, of rural Lawrence passed away peacefully at home on Sunday, August 2, 2020. He was born August 28, 1930 in Stuttgart, Arkansas. He is predeceased by his parents, Ralph M. King Sr. and Ruth Kennedy King. He is survived by his wife, Mary Anne, and children, Ruth Anne Sneegas (Randy), Kathy King (Larry Chance), and Steve King, all of Lawrence. He is also survived by four grandchildren, John Sneegas (Dr. Liz Pollock) of McAllen, TX, Jason Sneegas (Alex) of Overland Park, Dylan Hedges of Vail, Colorado, Apryl Kincaid (Sam) of Mission KS, and two step grandchildren, Nick Chance of Mission, KS, Daniel Chance (Brittney) of Wildamor, California. There are three great-grandchildren, Park Kincaid, Olive Sneegas and Ireland Chance and three more will make an appearance before the end of the pandemic.
Ralph spent his childhood in Stuttgart, Arkansas, the rice and duck capital of the world. His family moved to Memphis,Tennessee, where he attended secondary schools. One of his last reminiscences was of sitting in a dull class on a hot day and hearing the animals calling out from the zoo across the street from the junior high. Ralph maintained friendships from his high school days in Memphis and he and Mary Anne traveled to the Georgia coast for many years to reunite with them. Visits home from college were to Stuttgart as his parents had moved again. While never an avid hunter, he enjoyed the outdoor hunting experience with family and watching the sky, dark with ducks flying over the rice fields. Duck memorabilia permeated the household over the years and these items remain on the shelves of his children today.
Ralph graduated from Kansas University in 1952 as a proud third generation Jayhawk, earning a degree in industrial management. While at KU, he was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. He took a music history class, joined a choral group and fell in love with music, filling the halls of the fraternity with classical recordings on red vinyl 45’s. He then fell in love with his wife, Mary Anne Forman of St. Joseph, MO when they were both in the cast of The Bartered Bride. Mary Anne was a dancer, and he played the role of Micah, the landowner. The leading man of this production was James Ralston, the future director of the KU choirs. Ralph then graduated from the KU law school in 1954. After college, Ralph and Mary Anne married in St. Joseph, MO on September 11,1954. They spent two years in Springfield, Massachusetts where Ralph was in the army as a lieutenant stationed at the Springfield Army Ordnance District. The Korean War ended, and he and Mary Anne returned to Lawrence with a six month old, where he began his private law practice. They eventually fulfilled their dream of living out in the country and Ralph was able to live his last days where he wanted to be, in his rural home south of town on his historic family homestead.
He was an assistant Lawrence city attorney from 1958 to 1961, assistant Douglas County attorney from 1961 to 1963, and Douglas County attorney from 1963 to 1966. He was appointed to the bench in 1978 by Gov. Bennett and served as a district court judge for 17 years until 1996. For several years after retirement he filled in as needed. He was always proud that he was selected as a candidate by his peers in the bar association. Ralph appreciated his retirement celebration and joked that he was fortunate to hear his eulogy ahead of time.
Judge King had a “Matlock” style, as described by his colleague, Robert Fairchild, which put people at ease. Ralph practiced law in a house on Kentucky St, sharing the space with fellow lawyer Mike Elwell, who became a lifelong friend. He then officed with George Melvin and Wes Norwood in a downtown building upstairs over the King of Jeans. This wonderful, classic, colorful atmosphere was worthy of a scene in a John Grisham novel, however the stairs were difficult for clients so Ralph and Wes built a lovely office building which is now the Mathews Center next to Trinity Episcopal Church. Ralph had tremendous respect for and friendships with his former law partners, all co-workers, law enforcement and all with whom he shared office space.
Ralph was a member of the Lions Club, Plymouth Congregational Church, and was very involved with the early days of the Lawrence Aquahawks, often announcing at local swim meets. Ralph supported all athletic endeavors for the family including swimming, gymnastics and snow skiing. Family ski trips to Breckenridge and the condominium in Dillon, CO are priceless memories. Ralph earned quite a few medals of his own, swimming and throwing the discus in the Senior Olympics. He participated in the national event in San Antonio in 1995.
Ralph enjoyed traveling in the later years with his wife to places including the British Isles and Paris. They frequently went to Estes Park, Colo in September to celebrate their anniversary. He enjoyed the company of his Target coffee group, the Perkins Breakfast Club, and bridge club. Family was always the most important thing in his life and he never missed a sporting event to watch his beloved grandchildren. He made friends sitting in a chair at the ballparks, in the bleachers, and the fields of cross country.
A graveside service for the family is being planned at Oak Hill Cemetery. We can’t pack a church at this time, but we can pack our hearts with good memories and not let Covid-19 be that cruel spoiler of closure. We are grateful for the numerous kindnesses shown by health care providers and friends throughout this past year. Our father had a calming presence and voice and he will be missed.
If you would like to send a memorial, the family suggests Lawrence Memorial Hospital Endowment Association (LMHEA), Boys and Girls Club, Visiting Nurses Association (VNA) or the Senior Center sent in care of Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home, 601 Indiana Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.