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James Donaldson Atkinson

James Donaldson Atkinson “J.D.”, 95, devoted father and grandfather, renowned attorney and judge, and longtime resident of Greenup, Kentucky passed away peacefully, Sunday, February 13, 2022 at Community Hospice Care Center in Ashland, KY. He was a resident of The Lantern in Russell, at the time. J.D. was born June 29, 1926 in Vanceburg, KY to the late James Dallas and Frances Halbert Atkinson. He was descended from a long line of attorneys, judges, and a KY State Senator, to include KY Circuit Court Judge William C. Halbert II, his grandfather. Their historic ancestral home, the Halbert House, still stands in Vanceburg. J.D.’s ancestors were some of the earliest settlers in KY, and friends with Daniel Boone. J.D. was a proud veteran having received an appointment to the Naval Academy, which he declined, instead enlisting in the U.S. Navy where he served aboard the USS West Point troop carrier, for the duration of World War II. After his service to his country J.D. went on to attend the University of Virginia earning a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Law degree. J.D. began his decades long law career in Virginia and later returned to KY to work as a law clerk for the KY Court of Appeals. He later returned to Greenup and served as a trial lawyer specializing in civil and criminal law at his father’s law practice, James D Atkinson Sr. Eventually, following in his grandfather William C. Halbert’s footsteps, he was endorsed by Judge Oscar Sammons and appointed by Governor Julian Carroll to serve as Judge of the Greenup Circuit Court. “Judge Jim” sat on the bench for five years before joining the law firm of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie and Kirkland as a trial lawyer and legal counselor for the last thirty years of his career before retiring in 2017. J.D. was passionate about fishing and took every opportunity to do so in varied locations such as Cuba, Canada and the Amazon River in Brazil. On all beach family vacations you would find him surf fishing as soon as the sun came up. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his son James Halbert Atkinson and sister Nancy Atkinson Warner. He is survived by his daughter Juliet (Terry) Phelps of Florence, KY, his grandson James Roger Phelps and former spouse Juliet Atkinson. Funeral service will be conducted at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, February 19, 2022, at Reed Funeral Home in Greenup. Burial will be at Bellefonte Memorial Garden in Flatwoods, Kentucky. Visitation will be from 11:00 am until service time on Saturday. Condolences may be made at


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