IndyBar: Looking Back to the 1982 Indianapolis Bar Foundation Charter Fellows

By Martha R. Lehman, SmithAmundsen LLC

lehman-martha-mug Lehman

This year the Indianapolis Bar Foundation (IBF) celebrates its 50th Anniversary. The Honorable Paul Buchanan, Jr. served as the first president of the bar foundation back in 1968. The IBF was created to serve as the charitable arm of the Indianapolis Bar Association and to advance justice and assist those in need. Fourteen years later, then-IndyBar Executive Director Rosie Felton led the charge to create a group of lawyers who would help sustain the IBF’s charitable mission by providing funds to supports it efforts.

In 1982, the IBF implemented the Fellows Program with its Distinguished Fellow Charter Members. The Charter Class consisted of 110 lawyers from varying backgrounds. The Charter Fellows included government officials such as Sen. Birch Bayh and Gov. Matthew Welsh. The group also included seven current and future judges, representing both the federal and state bench. In helping to populate the Charter Class, the IBF’s leadership selected lawyers from big firms and small firms and men as well as women.

According to the Honorable Frank J. Otte, one member of the Charter Class, Rosie Felton, approached him and asked him to be part of the Fellows Program. Judge Otte was impressed by the credentials of the proposed fellows and marveled at the depth and breadth of the class. Judge Otte also reported that “no one was able to say ‘no’ to Rosie” and he readily accepted his invitation, as did many of Indianapolis’ leading legal citizens.

Sadly, over 60 percent of that Charter Fellows Class is gone. In light of the IBF’s Golden Anniversary, the IBF wanted to highlight and thank the men and women who started the Fellows Program. In addition to Judge Otte, I was able to speak with Boyd Hovde and Don Buttrey about the work of the foundation and the support provided by the Fellows.

Hovde agreed with Judge Otte’s observation about the importance of Rosie Felton in establishing the Fellows program. He joined because he believed and still believes strongly that lawyers have an obligation to give back. “A law license is a privilege,” says Hovde, and it creates an important obligation to serve the community, particularly those who cannot pay. Hovde believes that the IBF represents the entire legal community in Indianapolis and provides a way for lawyers to serve through both pro bono work or by making cash donations to support pro bono services. Hovde recalled that before the establishment of the IBF, the “big three firms” used to handle a good portion of the pro bono work based upon referrals from judges. With the foundation’s emphasis on pro bono work, all lawyers can take a part in serving the community, regardless of the size of their firm.

Charter Fellow Don Buttrey served as president of the Indianapolis Bar Association and as president of the IBF following his service to the association. Like Judge Otte and Hovde, he recalls Rosie Felton’s determination in recruiting members of the Charter Class. He also echoed Hovde’s belief in supporting the IBF’s charitable programs. He commented that the annual contributions from the Fellows allow the IBF to continue those programs and create others as necessary.

Unfortunately, space limitations will not permit us to publish the list of the entire Charter Fellows Class from 1982. If you are interested in taking a look at the names of the men and women who pioneered this effort, please visit charterfellows. You are certain to see the name of someone that you know.

For me, looking back on the list of Charter Fellows was a fascinating reminder of the lawyers who cared enough about this city and legal community to want to make it better. As the IBF looks forward to another 50 years and more of serving Central Indiana, we hope that you will join us in acknowledging the Charter Fellows and in supporting the IBF.

Each year since 1982, a new group of Indy legal community leaders joins the ranks of our Fellows. Together, these leaders help to ensure the impact of the IBF far into the future. I invite you to join us in honoring the 2018 Distinguished and Senior Fellows at the IndyBar and IBF Recognition Breakfast on Tuesday, November 13 at 8:30 a.m. at Meridian Hills Country Club. Registration is open now at•

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