Former ISBA president Rabb Emison dies

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The state legal community is saying goodbye to a past Indiana State Bar Association president who was a pivotal part of promoting diversity within the profession.

Retired Vincennes attorney Ewing Rabb Emison Jr., 85, died Wednesday morning.

Serving as ISBA president from 1986 to 1987, Emison is most widely known for his work on expanding diversity for the organization and legal community. His efforts led to the creation of what is now the Racial Diversity in the Legal Profession committee to promote the employment and advancement of minority lawyers. The association created the Rabb Emison award in his honor and gives it each year to an attorney who best serves the goal of assisting minority lawyers, and in 2003 he received an American Bar Association honor for his contributions.

“He was one of those unsung heroes for minority lawyers and getting more participation for the ISBA,” said the association’s first African-American president Rod Morgan, who is an attorney at Bingham McHale and finishes his term next month. “He was a mentor, fine lawyer, and a friend. He was on the cutting edge of things as far as diversity, and Rabb was always there as a champion.”

A 1950 graduate of what is now the Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Bloomington, Emison began practicing with his father, Ewing Emison, that year. His entire career was with the firm now known as Emison Doolittle Kolb & Roellgen in Vincennes.

He comes from a line of attorneys, following in the footsteps of his father Ewing as well as his grandfather James Wade Emison – neither of which attended law school. Rabb Emison was also the last descendant in Knox County of a pioneer family that arrived in 1804, establishing a mill in Busseron Township and part of a small committee who’d selected Indianapolis as the site for the state capitol.

Emison’s obituary notes that he was most proud of his family history in that he, his father, and grandfather had all prepared and lobbied for legislation for the community. Emison had authored legislation on flood control, conservation, aviation, and historic preservation through the years.

He was interviewed by Evansville attorney Wesley Bowers for part of an ISBA oral history project. That transcript was made available to the ISBA and the Indiana Historical Society, where members of the public can view it and other oral history interview transcripts. Bowers’ interview topics involving Emison included his three stints in the Navy – 1942, 1952, and 1962 – and about his father and grandfather being attorneys even though they didn't go to law school.

Emison also was known for the more than 50 columns he had written for “Res Gestae” during and after his time as ISBA president. In his interview with Bowers, Emison said his columns were not so much about the law but about the behavior of attorneys who practice it. The columns were recently compiled into a book that he self-published and that the ISBA helps distribute.

Past president Bill Jonas in South Bend said, “Rabb Emison was a terrific lawyer, a gifted writer, and a dynamic leader. His efforts with the ISBA, especially in the advocacy of greater diversity, were truly remarkable. He embodied all the best of what it means to be an Indiana lawyer. On top of this, he was as fine a man as I have ever known. You could always count on Rabb for a wonderful story … usually one that illustrated in his uniquely Hoosier way the point he was making with you as he gently persuaded you to do what was right.”

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Kathleen, and his daughters Susan Emison of Louisville and Anne Emison Wishard (Gordon) of Indianapolis.

Funeral services are at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Goodwin Funeral Home in Vincennes, and online condolences can be made at In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Grouseland Foundation, 3 W. Scott St., Vincennes, IN 47591, or online at for an endowment to sustain the mansion.


Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Heritage, what Heritage? The New Age is dawning .... an experiment in disordered liberty and social fragmentation is upon us .... "Carmel City Council approved a human rights ordinance with a 4-3 vote Monday night after hearing about two hours of divided public testimony. The ordinance bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, among other traits. Council members Rick Sharp, Carol Schleif, Sue Finkam and Ron Carter voted in favor of it. The three council members opposing it—Luci Snyder, Kevin Rider and Eric Seidensticker—all said they were against any form of discrimination, but had issues with the wording and possible unintended consequences of the proposal." Kardashian is the new Black.

  2. Can anyone please tell me if anyone is appealing the law that certain sex offenders can't be on school property. How is somebody supposed to watch their children's sports games or graduations, this law needs revised such as sex offenders that are on school property must have another non-offender adult with them at all times while on school property. That they must go to the event and then leave directly afterwards. This is only going to hurt the children of the offenders and the father/ son mother/ daughter vice versa relationship. Please email me and let me know if there is a group that is appealing this for reasons other than voting and religion. Thank you.

  3. Should any attorney who argues against the abortion industry, or presents arguments based upon the Founders' concept of Higher Law, (like that marriage precedes the State) have to check in with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program for a mandatory mental health review? Some think so ... that could certainly cut down on cases such as this "cluttering up" the SCOTUS docket ... use JLAP to deny all uber conservative attorneys licenses and uber conservative representation will tank. If the ends justify the means, why not?

  4. Tell them sherry Mckay told you to call, they're trying to get all the people that have been wronged and held unlawfully to sign up on this class action lawsuit.

  5. Call Young and Young aAttorneys at Law theres ones handling a class action lawsuit