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Former ISBA president Rabb Emison dies

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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 www.goodwinfamilyfh.com. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Grouseland Foundation, 3 W. Scott St., Vincennes, IN 47591, or online at grouselandfoundation.org for an endowment to sustain the mansion.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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