Attorney, ICLU founder dies

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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A prominent and well-respected labor attorney who had a great impact on Indianapolis and the legal community died July 27.

Alan T. Nolan, an attorney, author, and historian, was 85. Calling and a memorial service will be Aug. 10 and 11.

Nolan was born in Evansville and moved to Indianapolis at the age of 10. He attended Harvard Law School and clerked for Sherman Minton at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. He returned to Indianapolis in 1948 and practiced law for 45 years with the firm that is now Ice Miller.

Nolan was one of the first attorneys in the labor practice at the firm at that time and helped to create it, said Ice Miller partner Byron Myers, who counted both Nolan and his brother, Val, as advisers. When Myers was in law school, Val Nolan was a professor at Indiana University School of Law - Bloomington and was Myers' mentor. When he joined the law firm, Alan Nolan became his mentor.

"I worked with Alan for years here," Myers said. "Alan was just an excellent attorney, a consummate professional that I was privileged to know as a colleague and a friend for many years."

Nolan practiced at Ice Miller until he retired in 1993. During his legal career, he served as chairman of the firm's management committee and spent seven years as chairman of the Disciplinary Commission of the Indiana Supreme Court. He and another attorney from his firm helped found the Indiana Civil Liberties Union in the early 1950s, now known as the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. It was controversial at the time because some people believed the ACLU was linked to communism, according to historical accounts.

Nolan also had a passion for history, especially the Civil War. He authored several books about it, including "The Iron Brigade: A Military History," which has been named by Civil War Times Illustrated as one of the "100 best books ever written on the Civil War."

Nolan would travel to lecture at universities, round tables, and the Smithsonian Institution. His interest in history led to an active role at the Indiana Historical Society where he served on the board and was a chairman for 12 years during the planning and construction of the current facility. Myers said many people at Ice Miller have read Nolan's books and that he was a fascinating man to talk with about history and the Civil War.

"Al was a wonderful guy. He had the kind of personality that no one could ever dislike him," Myers said. "If someone was an adversary in a case, he treated everyone with respect. I never heard anyone speak ill of Al Nolan."

Calling will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Indiana Historical Society, 450 W. Ohio St., Indianapolis. An hour of calling will precede the 11 a.m. memorial service Aug. 11 at St. Thomas Aquinas, 4625 N. Kenwood Ave., Indianapolis. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Indiana Historical Society, the Ensemble Music Society, Civil War Preservation Trust, or a favorite charity.

Nolan is survived by his wife, Jane Ransel DeVoe; children Patrick A. Nolan, Mary F. Nolan, Thomas C. Nolan, Elizabeth T. Nolan, John V. Nolan, John C. DeVoe, Ellen R. DeVoe, and Thomas R. DeVoe; sister, Kathleen Lobley; and 20 grandchildren.

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