The Bullitt County History Museum

Judge A. E. "Rade" Funk

An article about Judge Funk was originally published here on 20 Nov 2017.
It was revised and published in April 2023 in The Pioneer News as you see it below.

Alverado Erwin Funk was born June 14, 1859 to William Robert and Sarah Ann (McDaniel) Funk, the fourth of their seven children. Known from youth as "Rade" Funk, he grew up in the Knob Creek area of Bullitt County near Mt. Olivet, and likely got his early education in that small school located on Funk Road.

The family farm likely lay along the ridge top of Cupio Hill in what is now northern Fort Knox. Like other such lands in the knobs, it was well suited for growing fruit trees, and young Rade quickly learned the trade.

Along the way, he discovered Alice Victoria Holsclaw, a daughter of an experienced fruit grower named Hardin Holsclaw, and they were married in February 1883. A daughter they named Edith was born in December, and a second daughter Ora was born in May 1885, but tragically Alice died during that birth.

After fifteen months as a widower, Rade turned to Alice's sister Eugenia, and they were married in August 1886. Together they would add nine more children to the family.

Hardin Holsclaw was considered one of the top orchard men in the county, and as a younger man had been know by the nickname of "Peach" Holsclaw. He seems to have taken his son-in-law under his wing for Rade was soon also considered a good peach grower.

By December 1893, Hardin was ready to retire and turn the farm over to Rade, and they signed a contract leasing the Holsclaw farm and orchards to Funk in return for a share of the profits and a continuing place for Hardin and his wife Jane to live out their lives.

Rade Funk developed a good reputation in his community near Brooks Station, and was elected as a county magistrate in 1894, whetting his political appetite.

In 1904, he stood for County Judge, losing to R. F. Hays. Running again four years later, he was defeated by former Judge Leroy Daniels. However the third time was the charm as he defeated Daniels in the 1913 primary election with 428 votes to Daniels' 297.

Despite a financial setback when his barn, with 150 bushels of corn, hay and oats burned to the ground along with a tenant house shortly after the election, Funk continued his campaign, and won the endorsement of the local newspaper which wrote, "A. E. Funk, the nominee for County Judge, is a man of exceptional ability and will make one of the best Judges the county has ever had. He is a fine road-builder, having helped to start the building of metal roads in Bullitt County. A farmer and a fruit grower and a man of affairs. He can be depended upon to take care of the county business in first class style."

During his term in office as county judge, Rade Funk faced several difficult situations. In his first year, an outbreak of foot and mouth disease infected cattle in several parts of the county, forcing herds to be destroyed. While county officials led by Judge Funk were quick to respond, working to limit the damage, the county was placed under Federal quarantine, making it impossible for anyone to buy or sell livestock. A month later the quarantine was eased to just the parts of the county where the disease had been located. However, it would be several months before the county was considered free of the disease. A report in November indicated that overall, the disease had cost Kentucky over $133,000. Of that, Bullitt County lost $4,255. Of course, that did not include the revenue lost by farmers from fatted hogs and cattle, nor the loss of milk revenue for dairy farmers, leaving behind some angry and frustrated farmers.

The next crisis came about following the passage of a new compulsory school law by the General Assembly that required parents to send their children to school. As Rade Funk was a strong proponent of education, he had little problem with enforcing this new law.

In one newspaper report we read, "In Judge Funk’s court Saturday a fine and cost was given Robert Hackett for failure to send his children to school as is required by the new compulsory school law. The court held that Hackett’s excuses were too weak and flimsy and promptly assessed the fine, which should be a warning to all careless parents."

Then in a later paper we find this report. "William Buck Hutchens, of Pitts Point, who was fined in Judge Funk’s court a few weeks ago for failure to send his children to school, was arrested by Deputy Sheriff Lawrence Roby and brought in court last week and was finally lodged in jail to lay out the fine and cost which he refused to pay. This is the first time a parent has been placed in jail in this County for violation of the new school law and should serve as a warning to all negligent parents."

While the county newspaper and many county leaders supported the judge in his efforts, not everyone was pleased, especially not those he fined and/or jailed.

A third crisis that shook the county was the terrible train wreck in Shepherdsville in December 1917. While nothing to do with it was his fault, the turmoil that resulted further reduced his standing among the county's voters.

As he stood for re-election, the local paper offered this candid description of his service.

"Judge Funk, now serving out the last year of his tenure in office, is seeking a re-nomination and re-election at the hand of the people. There are few better and more worse men than Judge Funk. While his administration has been stormy at times, it has, in the main, been a successful one.

"In many respects, Judge Funk has made an excellent County Judge and along certain lines, he has proved the best Judge ever elected in this County. One thing can be truthfully said in his favor, he has at all times been County Judge. No faction or set of politicians have ever been able to control his actions.

"As a revenue getter, the Judge excels any official who ever held that office in this county. The records will show that he has collected more fines off law breakers and paid more money in to the Trustee of the Jury Fund than any predecessor. More miscreants have been kept on the rock pile and public roads of the county than by any former Judge. The information comes from reliable sources that last year, due to a scarcity of labor, the rock crusher would have been forced to shut down, had it not been for Judge Funk’s chain gang of misdemeanor prisoners whom most Judges permit to lie idly in jail and be fed at an enormous public expense.

"Judge Funk has at all times advocated doing things right. He has had the satisfaction of seeing constructed during his tenure, two steel bridges with concrete floors, the county’s only structures of this type. Just at present are under construction, a large steel bridge over Rolling Fork, at the Wooldridge Ferry, and a smaller one over Wilson’s Creek, at Hewlett Harned’s. Both will see completion in early spring. These bridges cost many thousand dollars, yet the people appear to want bridges more than roads, hence it has been necessary within the past two or three years to expend a large portion of the road fund for bridges.

"That the affairs of the County Judge have been well conducted and that the accounts have been kept in a business-like manner, stands fully attested by the recent visit of the State Inspector. That officer, after a careful examination of the official records, warmly congratulated the Judge on his excellent conduct of affairs.

"Judge Funk is just in the prime of life, strictly sober and industrious. The people could not be mistaken in giving the Judge the nomination and re-electing him."

Alas, Judge Funk had perhaps made a few too many enemies, for in the primary election he was easily defeated, coming in fourth in a six-man race.

Rade returned to his farm and orchards which occupied him until his sudden death in 1920 at the age of 61.

An intelligent man himself, Rade Funk had early on determined to see that each of his children obtained a good education, and for the most part he was successful as most of them earned college degrees at a time when finishing high school was a lofty goal for many.

His eldest two daughters, Edith and Ora both taught in rural Bullitt County schools prior to their marriages. Ora would later marry Charles Sanders, and their son C. V. Sanders would become a Circuit Court Judge in Bullitt County.

Two other daughters, Ada Cecil, who married Richard Sims, and Verna Ernestine, who married Leslie Sinkhorn, would both become teachers in Jefferson County.

His first son, named for him but known as Erwin, would become a lawyer, and later Kentucky's Attorney General in 1947, serving in the administration of Governor Earle Clements.

Rade's next son, named William Robert Funk for his grandfather, attended college at Bowling Green where he was an honor student, and by 1940 was working in the Detroit school system as a truant officer.

Rade and Eugenia's last child was a son they named Thomas Muir Funk. Muir was valedictorian of his class at Shepherdsville High School where he also excelled in sports. He then attended Georgetown College where he also excelled in both academics and athletics. His father died before Muir finished school, and did not get to see him accept the honor as valedictorian of his college class.

Muir taught mathematics and coached several sports at a Virginia high school for many years before entering the service at the beginning of World War II where he taught celestial navigation at the navy pre-flight school.

Following the war, he and his wife Julia moved to Cincinnati where he became a general manager for an insurance firm. Julia was an aunt to future Kentucky Governor Ned Breathitt.

Rade Funk was proud of the accomplishments of his children, and would have delighted even more had he lived longer. At his death, the newspaper editor made the following comments about his life.

"Rade Funk was a man of brilliant mind and much ambition, both latent and patent. He was a splendid speaker, witty and eloquent and rendered yeoman service in his party’s behalf in many hard fought campaigns in Bullitt County. There is much by which he will be remembered as the fleeting years go by, but his most distinguishing trait or characteristic was his undying devotion to his wife and children. His whole married life was one long season of absolute devotion to the huge task of educating and caring for his children, and he performed that task well and creditable."

I think Rade Funk would have been pleased with those words.

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday appointments are available by calling 502-921-0161 during our regular weekday hours. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 13 Jan 2024 . Page URL: