Bert Combs: The Fern Hill Years

Bert Combs: The Fern Hill Years
Item# BB419

Book Summary

By Sara Walter Combs
6 x 9 inches
168 pages
Includes a 32-page full-color photo insert
ISBN 978-1-953058-28-7
Pub date November 2021
Carton Qty: 28
Biography / Memoir

Instead of retiring and fading into the sunset as he had planned, Bert Combs – lawyer, governor, judge, mountain man – began writing a whole new chapter of his life when he and his law clerk, Sara Walter, fell in love and got married. Chasing a dream in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, Bert and Sara bought an old farm and built a log house. Fern Hill was born! Far from the high-rise law offices of Louisville and Lexington, “Judge,” as Sara called him, raised a vegetable garden, cultivated roses, doted on miniature horses, and nurtured a host of stray cats and dogs.

Then, inspired by the mountain soil that energized him and by the mystique of Fern Hill, Combs agreed to represent a group of school superintendents seeking to reform Kentucky schools in Rose v. Council for Better Education, a case of unprecedented constitutional significance.

This is the story of the last thirteen years of Bert Combs’s life: his Fern Hill years.

It is filled with history and biography, hilarity and heartache, frustration and fulfillment. Most of all, it is a love story.

Bert and Sara at a party

About the Author

Sara Walter Combs was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and received her BA, MA, and JD degrees from the University of Louisville. A former teacher of French and Spanish, she met Bert Combs during her last year of law school. They moved “home to the mountains” of Eastern Kentucky together and built Fern Hill, their beloved farm.

In addition to caring for Fern Hill, Sara is an appellate judge. She was the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Kentucky, appointed to the same seat formerly occupied by her late husband. After losing the election to retain that seat, she was elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, where she has remained for 28 years, authoring more than 2,500 appellate opinions and participating in more than 5,000 associate cases.

Sara still tends to Fern Hill and the many critters who live there.

From the Dust Jacket:

“There is nothing as ex as an ex-governor, honey,” Bert Combs announced to Sara Walter, his young law clerk, early in their relationship. Lamenting that it was too late for them to have a romance, he repeated that “the laws of nature” dictated “three score and ten” years as the maximum allotted to mere mortals, and he was nearly there. Nevertheless, they had fallen in love, and it was too late to turn back.

“You canít go home again.” Another saying that stood in the way! Bert Combs, son of the mountains, wanted to go home to his roots in Eastern Kentucky. Almost as deeply in love with the mountains as they were with each other, Sara and Bert set off to chase a dream: to find a farm in Powell County near the Red River Gorge, to build a log house, and to start a new life at Fern Hill.

That life was packed with adventures: scores of visitors; a passel of critters, some pedigreed but mostly strays; gardens of vegetables and of roses; hours and hours spent together in the mountain beauty unique in all the world! And then came the challenge to change history: a lawsuit of huge constitutional significance, championed by Bert Combs, to elevate the quality of public education throughout Kentucky.

“I want you to tell our story, the story of Fern Hill. Promise me,” he asked Sara. Days later, he perished in floodwaters that too often plague the mountains.

Thirty years later, Sara has kept that promise and recreated the magic that was Fern Hill. The life, the laughter, and the romance of their days together all leap from the pages of this loving memoir.

Butler Books • P.O. Box 7311 Louisville, KY 40257 • (502) 897-9393