Along with a distinguished legal career that spanned more than 50 years and an extensive list of professional achievements, Lloyd Cress never forgot his eastern Kentucky roots.
Cress, 78, who was of counsel with Dinsmore & Shohl and also general counsel for the Kentucky Coal Association (KCA), passed away on Dec. 27 at his home in Lexington.
“He always kept that country charm,” recalled Barbara Edelman, a partner in Dinsmore’s Lexington office. “He connected with people so well because he was so warm and friendly. Everyone liked to be around him because he was always upbeat and positive.”
Born in Powell County, Cress’ legal career began with his graduation from law school at the University of Kentucky in 1962. He worked for both Ashland Oil and the Commonwealth of Kentucky before founding the environmental law practice at what-was-then Greenebaum Doll & McDonald in 1981. Widely recognized as an expert in environmental law, Cress served as the environmental director of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and also chaired the Environmental Law committees for the Kentucky Bar Association, American Bar Association and American Petroleum Institute. He also played a significant role in the opening of the Toyota manufacturing facility in Georgetown (Ky.).
Perhaps most importantly, his experience and knowledge enabled him to serve as a mentor to a number of up-and-coming attorneys throughout the state, including current Dinsmore partners Carolyn Brown and Jack Bender.
“I don’t know that I would be where I am now without his guidance,” said Brown, who was hired by Cress as a young attorney at Greenebaum and now chairs Dinsmore’s Environmental Law practice group. “He was a huge influence on me and on my career, and he was just a pleasure to work with.”
“With Lloyd, it was about more than just learning to do the work,” recalled Bender, who was hired by Cress out of law school in 1987. “Even when you were a young lawyer, he truly valued your opinion and he trusted you. He was at the forefront of environmental law in the state but he also treated everyone with respect.”
Cress would later serve as deputy secretary of the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet and as commissioner for the Department for Environmental Protection. In 2010, while serving as of counsel at Dinsmore, he joined the KCA and helped guide the organization through significant changes, including counseling on litigation against federal agencies and providing guidance on new regulatory matters that impacted the industry. In 2016, he was awarded the Cabinet’s Environmental Leadership Award, the highest honor the Cabinet can bestow upon an individual.
“He had the ability to take extremely complex legal issues and solve them with a down-to-Earth, common sense approach,” said Chauncey Curtz, the managing partner of Dinsmore’s Lexington office. “He was an outstanding lawyer but more than that, he was a true gentleman. I’m very lucky to have had the chance to work with him and call him a friend.”
However, both Curtz and Edelman said that despite his professional accomplishments, family was never far from Cress’ mind. His wife, Karen Caldwell, was a partner at Dinsmore before becoming a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in 2001. His son, Lloyd “Rusty” Cress, Jr., is currently a partner in Dinsmore’s Frankfort office, where he focuses his practice on government relations and environmental law. All three were instrumental in establishing Dinsmore as a leader in the Kentucky legal industry, said Edelman.
“It’s hard to overstate the impact the Cress/Caldwell family has had on Dinsmore, especially in Kentucky,” she said. “They represent the best of what Kentucky is, and Lloyd was right at the center of that. We’re certainly going to miss him.”