Learning while driving

November 8, 2010
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I’ve driven down State Road 37 hundreds of times over the years. It’s the road that leads me to Bloomington, where I went to college and now visit during Indiana University football and basketball seasons.

I’ve seen the sign on the side of the road that says “Ruel W. Steele Highway” countless times, but I don’t think I’ve ever read it. It wasn’t until last weekend when driving to a football game did I actually read the sign and see that it didn’t say T.C. Steele.

I never processed the name on the sign until now; I saw “Steele” and assumed it said T.C. Steele, the Indiana artist who worked in southern Indiana. That assumption is plausible, given his connection to the region.

But when I finally read what the sign said, I asked my husband if he knew who Ruel W. Steele was. Thanks to a smart phone, we learned he was a lawyer and judge from Bedford who was on the head of the highway commission that created S.R. 37. That’s why the highway from Bedford to Indianapolis is named after him.

After doing some more research online later, I found that Ruel W. Steele received his LLB from Indiana University in 1948, the same year he founded Steele & Steele. He was honored by IU in 1973 with the Distinguished Alumni Service Award, which is the highest accolade for alumni. Steele died in December 1992. That’s all I could find out about him online.

I’ve driven that road for years never paying attention to who it honored. Now that I work for a legal newspaper, I find out it’s named for an attorney. Maybe I’m easily amused, but I get a kick out of that.

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  • Longer Legacy
    He is also the attorney who is the father of State Senator, Supreme Court applicant, and attorney, Brent Steele. My guess is that if you wanted to know more, Brent would be more than glad to oblige you on one of his visits to town for legislative business. There are some great stories and some great history there.
  • Correction:
    Ruel Steele did not create Highway 37 which was the main road from Indianapolis to Bloomington and on to Bedford for many years prior to Steele's service as a State Senator and Highway Commissioner. What Ruel Steele did accomplish was getting that heavily traveled highway "four laned."
  • Another highway story
    Highway 38 leading westbound into Noblesville is named the Bataan Memorial Highway (one of these signs is posted right on the curb of the American Legion near 10th St. in Noblesville). Being a miltary historian as well as an attorney, I asked a clerk in the Hamilton County Courthouse if some survivor or survivors of the Bataan Peninsula campaign and subsequent Death March lived in the area. She replied "What is Bataan?" I have made subsequent inquiries with lawyers and judges in Noblesville with no success. My guess would be that a legislator or highway executive decided to honor the veterans and nurses of Bataan.

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