A Lake County judge was surprised July 29 when he received the Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash award, one of the state’s highest civil honors.
Lake Superior Judge Calvin Hawkins had been told the party was to honor the Lorenzo Arredondo Justice Center in East Chicago where he is the presiding judge. He arrived at work with a cake and followed a staff member’s order to return quickly from a lunch-time errand so as not to miss the festivities. However, he was stunned to learn the celebration for him.
“I’m really humbled,” Hawkins said of receiving the Sagamore of the Wabash. “I don’t know what the catalyst agent was for the award.”
He was nominated separately by Reps. Bill Fine, R- Munster, and Michael Aylesworth, R-Hebron.
Fine, an attorney, described Hawkins as having a rock solid reputation as a jurist. Hawkins, Fine said, has served not only the legal profession but also the community by working for the greater good.
In particular, Fine pointed to the program “It’s Cool to Stay in School.” Hawkins started the initiative in 2007 in response to the alarming number of young people in Lake County who were either suspended, had dropped out or had high absenteeism from school. Hawkins had been working with local youths but, he said, when he moved to the bench he realized that as a judge he could do more, so he launched the program.
Since then, “It’s Cool to Stay in School” has grown with Hawkins and his team going to schools throughout the county to emphasize the importance of education and encourage students to stick with their studies. The program now awards $2,500 scholarships annually to two students who are going to college.
Hawkins graduated from Huntington College and received his law degree from Howard University. In addition, he completed theological studies at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
His legal career includes work as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, and private practice in Gary. For more than 20 years, Hawkins was a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee, the first African-American Chapter 7 trustee in Indiana.
For the award reception, Hawkins was joined by his wife, three children and three grandchildren.
“I’m proud of him,” Fine said. “I think everybody in the state should be proud of him.”