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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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