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Friends and family tell stories of humor and admiration to honor IBF Legendary Lawyer Henry Ryder

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The reception honoring retired Indianapolis attorney Henry Ryder included lots of stories.

About 120 friends, family and colleagues gathered at the downtown office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP to recognize Ryder on his selection to receive the Indiana Bar Foundation’s 2013 Legendary Lawyer Award.

Before Ryder was presented with the plaque, attorneys told stories about how they met him, different aspects of his life, his ability to sing Purdue University’s Alma Mater and how he convinced them to serve on boards.

They also acknowledged his distinguished career. Samuel “Chic” Born said as an attorney Ryder was known from the Ohio River to the shores of Lake Michigan and up and down the banks of the Wabash.

 “You’re a successful man. You’re an honorable man. You’re a good and faithful servant,” Born said. “I’m glad you’re my friend.”

Ryder practiced law for 54 years before retiring a partner and of counsel at Barnes & Thornburg. In 1960, he and William Roberts founded the firm Roberts & Ryder where Ryder focused his practice on labor and employment law.

Roberts credited Ryder with being even-tempered and never becoming angry. In fact, Roberts said in all the years they practiced together, they never had a disagreement.

Along with practicing law, Ryder has long advocated for education. He served as a trustee for Purdue University and Hanover College and he helped found PRIDE (Peaceful Response to Indianapolis Desegregated Education), an organization whose mission was to bring equal opportunity into schools during the desegregation era.

Federal Judge Sarah Evans Barker recalled the time she appeared at Conner Prairie with Ryder. She was posing as a suffragette, advocating for women’s right to vote, and he was a heckler in the crowd.

Barker called Ryder a smart lawyer and an icon. He is the “perfect exemplar of what the practice of law represents and requires.”

Ryder’s son, David, an attorney in Washington state, told stories detailing the adventures of growing up in the Ryder household. He pointed out that stories – myths even – can build up around individuals dubbed “legends,” but his dad stands up to the scrutiny.

The younger Ryder said he knew Henry Ryder as a dad and a man, not as an attorney. However, he believed the qualities his dad displayed at home – a sense of humor and an amazing moral compass – carried over into his law practice.

 “I’m so proud of you dad and proud to call you my dad,” he said.

When he took the podium, Ryder continued the storytelling by picking out members of the audience and telling humorous tales. Eventually he admitted he had stories for every person in the room.

“It’s so nice to be here,” Ryder said in closing. “I love you all. What a wonderful evening it is for me.”

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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