Sterling Gardner Culpepper Jr. passed away at his home in Montgomery, Alabama on May 4, 2018. He was a gifted trial lawyer, a faithful Episcopalian, and a devoted family man with a nearly infinite capacity to see the humor in life and to laugh. The lives he touched through his friendships, church involvement, and professional pursuits are beyond counting.
Sterling was born in Montgomery on May 25, 1936, to the late Lula May (Williams) and Sterling Gardner Culpepper. He attended public schools in Montgomery, graduating from Lanier High School in 1954. In 1959, he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Auburn University, where he was a member of Phi Delta Theta. He went on to law school at the University of Alabama, graduating in 1961. After a nine-month stint in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Montgomery, Sterling served in the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps for five years.
He met his wife, Kita Kelly, at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, and they married on March 2, 1963. She was the beautiful daughter of a soon to be a four-star general, and Sterling never ceased to marvel at his good fortune. He subsequently was stationed at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany for three years, where he and Kita created a well of extraordinary memories to which they often returned right up until each passed away. Sterling and Kita came back to Montgomery in 1967 to start a family, and Sterling went to work with what would eventually become Smith, Bowman, Thagard, Crook, and Culpepper, which then later merged with Balch Bingham LLP.
He established a reputation as a consummate trial attorney, earning the respect of colleagues, adversaries, and judges. Sterling's Christian faith was deep and unassuming, and he was extremely active in the Episcopal Church, where he ultimately served as senior warden at the Church of the Ascension. Sterling's hobbies and interests included teasing his children and law partners, gardening, hunting, fishing, and spending time at his house on Lake Martin, where he waged determined (but rarely successful) war against the beavers and other wildlife that relentlessly attacked his gardening creations. He loved Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals and old-time country music. He doted on a wide array of dogs and cats with names only he could have dreamed up (Willy-Sue the Siamese cat and Horace the Dachshund). But most compulsively, he watched, followed, read about, talked about, and incessantly thought about Auburn football.
Sterling adored his wife and absolutely delighted in his children and his grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Kita and his parents. He is survived by three children and their spouses: Sterling Gardner Culpepper III (Tricia), William Kelly Culpepper (Keely), and Emily Culpepper Pfeil (George); seven grandchildren: Kathryn Austin Culpepper, Sterling Gardner Culpepper V (Quinn), Mary Carter Culpepper, William Gregory Culpepper, Kiel Elizabeth Culpepper, George Arthur Pfeil IV, and James Gustaf Pfeil; and his sister, Clara Armstrong (Robert). He is also survived by four nieces: Linda Churchwell, Laura Head, Leila Utt, and Christin Hewitt.
Visitation will be held on Tuesday, May 8, 2018, at 10:00 a.m. in Ascension Hall at the Church of the Ascension. A memorial service will follow at 11:00 a.m. at the Church of the Ascension.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Memorial Fund at Ascension.
Published in the Montgomery Advertiser on May 6, 2018.