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Veteran Tarrant DA Tim Curry dead at 70

Curry served at Tarrant County's top prosecutor for 36 years and is one of the longest-serving criminal district attorneys in state history.

File / WFAA-TV

Tim Curry

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Craig Civale reports.

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FORT WORTH - Tarrant County District Attorney Tim Curry, whose 36 years in office make him one of the state's longest-serving top prosecutors, died early Friday at his home after battling lung cancer. He was 70.

Curry, who had undergone chemotherapy treatments since his diagnosis last summer, had been at home since the first of the year, Assistant District Attorney Joe Shannon told The Associated Press on Friday. Several prosecutors went to his house weekly so he could sign documents and stay informed of cases, but his health declined drastically in the last 10 days, Shannon said.

He said he and others will remember Curry for his integrity.

"He would always tell you, 'Do what you think is right,' especially when you had a tough call to make," Shannon said. "And once you made a deal, you stuck with it."

Curry is likely among the longest serving criminal district attorneys in Texas history, according to incomplete records from the Texas District & County Attorneys Association, spokeswoman Sarah Wolf said.

According to the state Constitution, the governor will appoint someone to serve the remainder of Curry's term until the November 2010 election.

Born in the tiny West Texas town of Tulia, Curry joined his father and older brother at their Fort Worth law firm after graduating from Texas Christian University and Baylor Law School. He and some colleagues recruited someone to run for district attorney because they felt the office was rife with corruption, but when their first choice backed out at the last minute, Curry ran and was elected in 1972.

Curry started by hiring lawyers regardless of their political affiliation and ridding downtown of pornography businesses. And he wouldn't seek indictments against drug suspects until receiving lab results, which was not standard practice in the 1970s because processing evidence sometimes took months, Shannon said.

But then Curry became mired the high-profile Cullen Davis case, which at the time was the longest and costliest murder trial in Texas history. Multimillionaire oil tycoon Davis was acquitted of killing his stepdaughter in a shooting spree at his mansion, and later was acquitted in a murder-for-hire plot.

The 1977 Davis murder trial was the last case Curry tried in court.

In the 1980s, Curry was accused of being soft on drunken drivers. In the 1990s, claims that his office bungled prosecuting a skinhead who was sentenced to probation for gunning down a black man sparked a protest of thousands through downtown Fort Worth. At a later trial on different charges, the defendant got 40 years in prison.

"I'm a lawyer who happens to be elected," Curry told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1984. "If it wasn't for the news media and the politics, this would be the best job in the world. As it is, I have to practice law in a goldfish bowl."

But despite some criticism about not trying cases himself or lack of community involvement, he was in the office almost every day, made decisions about cases and was readily accessibly to the 155 prosecutors in the office, Shannon said. And Curry loved his job.

"Clearly, I'm getting of the age I have to quit sometime," Curry told the Star-Telegram in 2007. "But to be frank, I don't know. I'm just a wagon-yard lawyer who enjoys what I do very much."

Curry is survived by his wife, two children and mother.

A memorial service was planned for Wednesday at Fort Worth's First United Methodist Church.

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