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Dinwiddie Lampton Jr. Passes Away

Dinwiddie Lampton Jr., a longtime Louisville insurance executive and enthusiast of steeplechase racing and horse-drawn carriages, died Thursday at his home in Lexington, Ky. He was 94.

Lampton also was an unsuccessful candidate in the Democratic primary for governor in 1987.

With a personal motto of "whip and kick and don't give up, you've got an eternity to rest," the wiry-eyebrowed Lampton had a passion for running the insurance company that was founded by his father in 1906 and taking part in the occasional steeplechase, polo event or carriage drive.

He was the longtime president of American Life & Accident Insurance Co., headquartered in downtown Louisville near the riverfront, and was a well-known face around the city who was seen frequently in TV commercials saying, "Be wise, be insured," while he sat atop one of his many elaborately designed carriages.

In contrast to his pleasant disposition on TV, however, Lampton could be a scrappy opponent. He was involved in a series of disputes in the 1970s with developer Al J. Schneider involving Schneider's proposed riverfront project of high-rise offices and apartments.

Lampton tried to block the Urban Renewal Commission from approving Schneider's plans, which would overshadow his own office building. Lampton also fought against the condemnation of property he owned near Fifth and Main streets for a project.

Eventually, a compromise was reached that pleased both sides.

But a few years later the two squared off again, this time involving an elevated, covered "pedway" that Schneider wanted to build. Lampton objected, saying it would obstruct his riverfront view.

Outside the office, Lampton focused on horse-related activities at his Hardscuffle farm in Oldham County. He played host to the Hardscuffle Steeplechase, which began in the mid-1970s because he and his son Mason admired the sport.

The popular day of steeplechase racing was held just a few weeks after the Kentucky Derby and raised money for the Kentucky Opera Association. The event was a Louisville tradition for about two decades, raising nearly $2 million for the opera.

Lampton also was known for his extensive collection of horse-drawn carriages, buggies and coaches that he would frequently drive around Hardscuffle and in his TV commercials. He also collected horse accessories and equipment, from bridles to top hats.

In 1997, the Lampton family purchased the historic Lexington horse farm Elmendorf for $5 million. Just as he did at Hardscuffle, Lampton planned to drive his carriages there, and he moved to Elmendorf permanently in 2003.

A day after competing in the World's Championship Horse Show at the Kentucky State Fair in 2004, Lampton attended an auction at Hardscuffle where about a third of his carriage and accessories collection was auctioned. The event attracted carriage enthusiasts from Florida to Canada.

During the auction, Lampton told The Courier-Journal, "I'm a growing boy at 90," but fought back tears when he saw his carriages being sold.

"Old friends," he called them.

- Reprinted from the September 27, 2008 Louisville Courier Journal

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