Ken Hur, the effervescent, wavy-haired lawyer who introduced legal advertising to Madison airwaves and enjoyed poking the vested tummy of his staid barrister brethren, died Dec. 30 at the state Veterans Home in King.
"My whole life has been a series of anecdotes," he liked to say, and he never tired of relating or adding to them.
Impishly louche and quotable, Hur ran the Legal Clinic in Madison, pioneering cheap legal help and sloganeering: "Talk to a lawyer for just 10 bucks." In his most famous television commercial, the manatee-shaped Hur — born Hurwitz in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1924 — emerged wearing beads, long necklaces and scuba gear from a swimming pool, asking potential bankruptcy customers: "If you're in over your head, we'll put you through bankruptcy for only $100."
"Advertising was a natural for him," said Hur's daughter Tamara Sue Kaplan. "He was an actor. All his life he was just trying to bring affordable legal help to people. He didn't think the people should be intimidated by the law."
He had an airplane fly over Badgers football games pulling his name on a banner. He had a parked crunched car with the message painted on it "Sideswiped? Call Ken Hur."
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"People should not be afraid to go in to see a lawyer with a fresh crisp $10 bill and say: 'Here, lawyer, talk this much,'" Hur told the Wisconsin State Journal in 1977, when he ran his first television ads and was expecting disapproval from the Wisconsin Bar Association.
Hur came to Madison and Truax Field at the age of 17, then returned after World War II, attending the University of Wisconsin and living in Badger Village with wife Jacquie outside of Baraboo, where he was justice of the peace. His constable in the village, a housing complex across from the Badger Army Ammunition Plant, was Lee Dreyfus, who later became governor.
When his income dropped, he would dispatch "Lee (to) go out and nail a few speeders because I'd get to keep the $2 court costs," recalled Hur.
Hur faced various legal problems himself, including bankruptcy, through the years but never shied from the spotlight.
Hur recently returned to Wisconsin after spending most of his retirement in Key Largo, Fla. He was 87, and is survived by five children. His wife died in 2004.