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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  1. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  2. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  3. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  4. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  5. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

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