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Lawyer-pilot named Aviator of the Year

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Attorney Rod Taylor always wanted to learn how to fly. But for much of his early life, time seemed to be the only thing that flew. He went to college, then law school, started practicing law, and before he knew it, his children were heading to college and he still hadn’t flown a plane.

Then at the age of 49, he was browsing in a bookstore and saw a book about learning to fly after age 50. He bought the book that day and an airplane the next.

Now 64, Taylor is an accomplished pilot who regularly flies himself to destinations for work. And the Capitol City Ford 2012 Indianapolis Air Show just named him Aviator of the Year.

rod-taylor-15col.jpg Motorcycle enthusiast , pilot and attorney Rod Taylor connects his favorite hobbies with fundraising efforts. (Submitted photo)

Getting off the ground

Taylor grew up in Southern Illinois, and he credits that background with inspiring his interest in flying planes.

“I’m an old farm boy, so I probably have a more-than-usual interest in mechanical things, and another interesting statistic is that older children dominate the ranks of pilots,” he said.

Taylor’s theory about birth order and propensity for flight comes from conversations he’s had with other pilots who – like himself – are the first-born child in their families.

Taylor relies on his piloting skills to get to far-away appointments. And as a busy personal injury attorney for Christopher & Taylor, and legal counsel for the Indiana, Illinois and Ohio chapters of American Bikers Aimed Toward Education, he travels often.

Being able to hop in his plane and go somewhere offers “an exhilarating moment of freedom,” Taylor said.

Attorney Bob Duncan, chair of the Indianapolis Air Show and interim director of the Indianapolis Airport Authority, has been a pilot for 51 years and has trained at least nine Indiana attorneys to fly.

Duncan’s family lived in New Jersey, and when he was 16, his father learned he was being transferred to Indiana for work. He offered his son a good reason to cooperate.

airshow“My dad just said, ‘You don’t raise a big stink about this move, and when we move to Indiana, you can learn how to fly,’” Duncan said.

Duncan, who handles aviation law as of counsel for Norris Choplin & Schroeder, said that what began as a hobby has turned out to be much more.

“It’s like anything else in life – you find an interest, you stay with it and it becomes part of your lifestyle,” Duncan said.

Making hobbies count

Taylor is also an avid motorcyclist, and in 1994, he found a way to enjoy that hobby and raise money for a good cause at the same time. He established the Miracle Ride, an annual motorcycle ride that benefits the Riley Children’s Foundation and Riley Hospital for Children. The success of that event and his love of flying motivated Taylor to – with the help of others – found the Indianapolis Air Show in 1997. Proceeds from that event benefit the Central Indiana Community Foundation and support the Riley foundation and hospital.

The idea for his charitable efforts came after Taylor saw the patients at Riley.

“I think what initiated it was a tour at Riley Hospital, and I defy anybody to go on a tour at Riley and not ask what you can do to help out there,” he said.

Taylor is humbled by the number of volunteers who sacrifice their time to orchestrate the events – the air show alone requires the assistance of about 500 to 600 volunteers. Many of the volunteers who help with the air show have some connection to Riley. Duncan’s own daughter and two grandchildren have been patients at the hospital, and his daughter now works there.

duncan-bob-mug.jpg Duncan

Kevin O’Keefe, president and CEO of Riley Children’s Foundation, shares Taylor’s respect for the people who plan and work year-round to make the charitable events happen.

“One of the lasting impressions we have of these two events is that these are all volunteers who rally around Riley and the kids. You have thousands of people – some of whom give up vacation time to attend meetings or work these events – and they’re all doing it for the sake of these kids, to help us take care of the sickest of the sick kids in the state,” he said.

O’Keefe said Taylor’s personality plays a big part in getting people to volunteer.

“Rod can talk to anybody and be comfortable with them, and I think the person on the other side of the table is comfortable with Rod. He’s very passionate about his commitment to Riley, and he’s just willing to do whatever it takes for the purpose of the mission,” O’Keefe said.

The air show and Miracle Ride combined have raised more than $5 million for Riley.

Recognition

Taylor said that any air show that features an armed forces jet team is considered to bear a mark of distinction, so he’s proud of the fact that the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flight squadron has twice named the Indianapolis show the best in the country. And as a U.S. Army veteran, he enjoys that the air show attracts so many members of the military.

The Indianapolis Air Show executive committee receives nominations for Aviator of the Year and picks the honoree.

“Rod was nominated this year, and since he’s been an integral part of the air show and was essentially the founder of it, we thought it was appropriate to honor him in this manner,” Duncan said.

Past winners include Dr. Worthe Holt, who began his military career as a flight surgeon and is currently assistant adjutant general for the Minnesota National Guard, and Margaret Ray Ringenberg, a pilot who flew bombers, fighters and transports to troops overseas during World War II. Taylor said he is honored to be among such an elite group of aviators.

“I keep thinking of myself as a newbie, although in the aviation world, going on 14, 15, 16 years, I suppose sometime I need to quit saying that,” Taylor said.•

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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