Robert Louis Slaton

Robert Louis Slaton


Robert Louis Slaton, 81, passed away on December 27, 2022, after suffering a stroke a few days earlier. 

Born in Madisonville on June 25, 1941, Robert was the only son of L.R. “Rex” Slaton and Mary Ruth McGuyer Slaton.  He earned an MA in Education from WKU in 1966, a MSSW from U of L in 1968, and a Doctorate in Educational Administration from U of L in 1989.

He is survived by five adult children, Andrea, Lyle, Tom, Danny (Elizabeth), and Mike (Jake), and by three grandchildren: Thia, Henry, and Lila.  He is also survived by his companion, Mary B. Bradley, and her two children, whom he very much thought of as his own: Lizi Hagan and Clay McClure. He was immensely proud of his children and grandchildren.

Throughout his career in both public service and as a health care consultant, he provided a politically savvy perspective and an astute management style that enabled institutions and organizations to make significant headway in policy change to improve the health of Kentuckians. Robert always believed that healthcare was a right, not a commodity, and he worked very hard in a variety of settings to help move it in that direction.

In 1978, Robert became the Commissioner of Health for Kentucky, where he demonstrated an understanding of social and structural determinants of health that was ahead of its time. Robert was the external affairs administrator for Trover Clinic, director for the Public Service Institute at Kentucky State University, a top health administrator at the University of Louisville, and special assistant to then-governor Brereton Jones for health care reform. As Executive Director of the U of L Primary Care Center, he expanded services for underserved populations. Robert was part of a small group that planned, developed, and implemented Passport Health Plan, a national model for Medicaid managed care. In 2018, he was presented with the Russell E. Teague Award by the Kentucky Public Health Association for his meritorious achievements and contributions in the field of public health. 

Robert was the chair of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Health Care Policy Council and was a valued member of the Community Advisory Council of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

While serving on the national advisory board for the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, he helped focus attention on the states’ health issues and secured funding for the creation of Kentucky Health News, an independent, trusted source of health information. 

Robert was a consensus builder and a natural organizer who was described as generous and down to earth. His talents included problem solving, strategic planning, and organizing a group of people to get a project done. He was proud that over his career he had helped young staff members develop beyond what they thought they could do. He could often see what needed to be done before most people, and he could handle personalities and egos to bring about change in organizations. Robert focused much of his career on building linkages and coalitions between different groups. This was eased by his genuine rapport with people. Robert’s strategic planning skills, insightful opinions, and wise counsel were valued by many leaders in the business, nonprofit, and political world. 

Over the years, he enjoyed bowling, tennis, and billiards. He enjoyed riding horses and driving convertibles and old tractors. He regretted that he never learned to fly a plane. 

Robert was a history buff, and family history and genealogy were a passion for his entire life. Robert was active in politics as a liberal Democrat his entire life and was proud to serve as a delegate at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.

Robert was very proud to be the co-author of two books about management, From Green Persimmons to Cranky Parrots, and Caught in the Middle Management. At the time of his death, he was working on a book about his mother’s life, based on the diaries she kept for decades. As he moved into assisted living, Robert was already making plans for his next book, stories of his colorful adventures as a parole officer in Western Kentucky in the 1960’s.

Memorial Service was held at 10 AM on Saturday, December 31 at Pearson’s, 149 Breckenridge Lane.

Visitation was 4 PM to 7 PM Friday, December 30 at Pearson’s.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Down Syndrome of Louisville, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, or the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.

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