By David Denson, Gary Crusader
Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert D. Rucker recently announced that he is stepping down after 19 years on the bench.
Rucker, 70, is the second African American to serve on the state’s high court. He was appointed by then governor Frank O’Bannon.
Prior to serving on the Supreme Court, Rucker served on the state’s appellate court for eight years after he was appointed by Gov. Evan Bayh.
During his career before his court appointments, Rucker practiced law in Gary and East Chicago. He also served as one of Gary’s assistant attorneys.
The Gary native has received numerous honors and recognition during his 19-year career as a judge. The Lake County Court Building in Gary was renamed the Robert D. Rucker Court House in his honor and earlier this week during a ceremony in the Indiana Legislature he was recognized as an outstanding Hoosier.
During the ceremony Rep. Vernon G. Smith, along with a number of his colleagues, spoke about Rucker’s fairness, humility and his commitment to the citizens of Indiana.
Smith, who sponsored the resolution to honor Rucker, said the news of the justice’s retirement hit him like a ton of bricks. He said that he just took for granted that he would always be on the court.
Smith, who was a classmate of Rucker at Indiana University said through his accomplishments, Rucker has sealed a place in Indiana history. “Justice Rucker’s history place in Indiana history will be an honored one. He opened doors to women and people of color, so that they could advance their careers through the judicial system, so that system would become diverse and fair,” said Smith.
“A person of Justice Rucker’s stature comes around once in a lifetime, if you are lucky. The state of Indiana has been very fortunate,” Smith concluded.
As the second African American and the first Black male named to the court Rucker said he did view it from a historical perspective. “I don’t,” said Rucker when asked if he considered himself a trailblazer.
He acknowledged that while growing up in Gary, he never dreamed that he would be a lawyer or sit on the state’s highest court.
As the longest sitting justice on the court he said that in retiring he finally figured out what to do next.
Rucker said that he and his wife plan to continue to travel and spend time with his 17 grandchildren. He is also contemplating writing a memoir about his life growing up in Gary and his experiences on the court.