The Associated Press
FRANKFORT - James Bickford, a retired Army general respected by friend and foe alike in the contentious job of secretary of the Natural Resources Cabinet, died Friday after a battle with cancer. He was 65.
Born in West Virginia, Mr. Bickford was raised in Harlan County, Ky., and graduated from the Tennessee Military Institute. He obtained his bachelor's degree and a commission in the U.S. Army from Eastern Kentucky University. Mr. Bickford also received a master's degree from the Florida Institute of Technology.
His 32-year Army career took Mr. Bickford to posts in England, Germany, France, Korea and Vietnam and earned him numerous decorations. He rose to the rank of brigadier general. During the Persian Gulf War he commanded the Defense Fuel Supply Center, which bought, distributed and stored all the fuel for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines around the world.
Mr. Bickford was one of Gov. Paul Patton's first cabinet selections in December 1995. After his appointment, Mr. Bickford set his primary focus on solid waste issues in the state.
"For seven years, he maintained the respect of the business community and the environmentalists and kept the interest of the commonwealth foremost with his honesty straightforwardness and sense of fairness," Mr. Patton said.
Among his accomplishments were campaigns against straight sewer pipes and illegal dumps, the collection and disposal of millions of waste tires, the regulation of large confined animal operations and passage of legislation to improve logging operations in the state.
Mr. Bickford recently had been negotiating with the federal government over the cleanup of environmental waste at the Paducah uranium enrichment plant.
"He had a reputation, I think, for unquestioned integrity, which is of the utmost importance in the cabinet's enforcement mission," said Frankfort attorney Phillip Shepherd, who preceded Mr. Bickford as Natural Resources secretary during the Jones administration. "I think he kept the cabinet free from politics or political considerations and worked hard to make sure the cabinet's decisions" were based on law.
Tom FitzGerald, a lawyer and lobbyist for environmental causes, said he sometimes clashed with Mr. Bickford and his agency. But Mr. FitzGerald said that he "never doubted the commitment, the energy, the compassion and the courage that the secretary brought to his second career of service."
Mr. Bickford is survived by his wife, Shirley, of Versailles, Ky.; his mother, Alma Bickford, of Berea, Ky.; a brother, Jack Bickford, of Berea; three daughters, Amy Fraysur, of Leesburg, Fla.; Jill Crawford, of Versailles, Ky.; and Cindy Bentley, of Port Charlotte, Fla.; and five grandchildren.
Funeral services are 10 a.m. Monday, St. John's Episcopal Church, Versailles. Visitation is1-6 p.m. Sunday at Blackburn and Ward Funeral Home, Versailles. Burial will be in Rose Crest Cemetery, Versailles.
Memorials: Pine Mountain Settlement School, 36 Highway 510, Pine Mountain, Ky., 40810; or to Hospice of the Bluegrass, 208 Steele St., Frankfort, Ky., 40601.
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