Senator David Karnes, a 31-year veteran of Kutak Rock, was posthumously inducted into the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s Omaha Business Hall of Fame on August 23, 2023. His wife, Kristine Dorn Karnes (also a veteran of Kutak Rock) accepted the honor in Dave’s memory. The Omaha Business Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have made a significant, historical contribution to the Omaha business community.
Sen. Karnes passed away on October 25, 2020 at the age of 71 after a courageous battle with cancer. His contributions to the greater Omaha community were vast, serving in many professional and civic organizations. He founded Liz’s Legacy cancer fund and Kicks for a Cure, a charity to raise money for local cancer research. He was active in the Omaha Children’s Museum, Dundee Presbyterian Church, the AKSARBEN Foundation, the Omaha Airport Authority, and the Scottish Rite Foundation, among others.
“Dave was the definition of a skillful lawyer and trusted advisor. He had a passion for his legal career and an unending desire to help his clients,” said Buck Heim, managing partner of Kutak Rock’s Omaha office. “For decades he acted in service to others. We sincerely miss Dave, but we are grateful that his legacy and the impact he had on the Omaha community lives on.”
Kutak Rock partner John Schembari joined the firm in 1998 and knew only three people in Omaha at the time. “On my first day at Kutak Rock, I met Dave in the hall, and he spent an hour with me getting to know me and welcoming me to the town he loved so much. That’s just who Dave was. He was always interested in you and how he could help you.”
In 1987, Nebraska Governor Kay Orr appointed him to the United States Senate to fill a vacancy due to the death of Sen. Edward Zorinsky. While in the Senate, he served on three committees including Banking, Agriculture and Small Business, as well as several subcommittees.
Sen. Karnes is one of five people inducted into this year’s Omaha Business Hall of Fame. The honorees are selected from nominations submitted by community members and business leaders. The achievements of the inductees will be showcased in a permanent display at The Durham Museum.
Senator David Karnes is survived by his wife; six daughters; and nine grandchildren.