The Evansville Bar Association presented the James Bethel Gresham Freedom Award to Vanderburgh Circuit Judge Carl A. Heldt on April 29 at its annual Law Day dinner. To be considered for the award – the highest honor bestowed by the bar association – a member of the legal community must nominate the recipient. On Judge Heldt’s nomination form, a peer wrote, “Judge Heldt is the most honest, caring, hard-working, community-minded, well-respected man that I know.”
Judge Heldt has been the Vanderburgh Circuit Court judge since 1998. Prior to becoming a judge, he was in private practice for 29 years. The Evansville native served in the Indiana National Guard from 1970 to 1975 and has been an assistant city attorney, deputy prosecutor, and an assistant county attorney.
In late 2007, Judge Heldt was instrumental in obtaining approval to create the Family Law Clinic for Self-Represented Litigants. Funded by the Supreme Court and operated by the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Southwestern Indiana, the clinic assists low-income family law litigants to select, complete, and properly file necessary pleadings.
Judge Heldt is currently the co-chair of the Evansville Bar Association Diversity Committee. Through this, he is involved in promoting diversity in Evansville’s legal community. He is also the current president of the John L. Sanders Memorial – Evansville Bar Foundation.
Other qualities cited in his nomination for the award include his dedication to mentoring young lawyers, his service to the community, and his charitable giving.
“Judge is very generous in his charitable giving,” his nominator wrote. “However, no one knows how much he donates each year because he strongly believes that you should donate for the good of the cause and not to receive recognition.”
The EBA established the James Bethel Gresham Freedom Award to recognize and honor people who have distinguished themselves in activities or careers that have elevated respect for the law, promoted freedom, or otherwise furthered the ideals that Law Day upholds and celebrates. The award is named in honor of James Bethel Gresham, who lived in Evansville from 1901 to 1914 and is believed to have been the first American soldier to die in combat during World War I.