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Americans for the Arts, in partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures, presented the Public Leadership in the Arts Award for State Arts Leadership to Kentucky Representative Brent Yonts, right, at NCSL’s Fall Forum in Washington, D.C., in December 2015.

Brent Yonts, Known for His Leadership in the Arts, Dies at 72

By Lisa Ryckman | Aug. 20, 2021 | State Legislatures News | Print

Former Kentucky Representative Brent Yonts, an attorney known for his colorful sport coats and big heart, died from complications of COVID-19 on Friday. He was 72.

Yonts, a Democrat who represented House District 15 from 1997 to 2016, served for over a decade on NCSL’s Labor and Economic Development Committee, which he chaired from 2008 to 2009 and again from 2010 to 2011. In 2015, Yonts received the Public Leadership in the Arts Award for State Arts Leadership from NCSL and Americans for the Arts for his work on the national level to reintroduce the arts and culture to NCSL’s members and staff.

NCSL Federal Affairs Advisor Jon Jukuri, who serves on the Labor and Economic Development Committee, said Yonts was one of the first state legislators he got to know well when he started his job.

“His steadfast dedication to bipartisanship, states’ rights and helping craft NCSL policy for federal advocacy was paramount,” Jukuri said. “His friendship, kindness and fashion sense will be sorely missed.”

Jeff Taylor, Kentucky’s commissioner of business development who served in the Legislature with Yonts and considered him a mentor, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that Yonts had a closetful of fabulous blazers and a heart of gold.

“He was a true Kentuckian,” Taylor said. “He loved his state. He loved his constituents and his family.”

Yonts made Kentucky a better place, House Speaker David Osborne (R) said in a statement on the chamber’s behalf.

“He was well known for his colorful attire and clever wit,” Osborne said. “But the true hallmark of his character was his devotion to his family. We hope they are able to find comfort in his many accomplishments.”

Lisa Ryckman is NCSL’s Associate Director of Communications.

In the photo above right: During a visit to Denver, Yonts, left, talks with former Kentucky Representative John Tilley, who also served as secretary of the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

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