Chicago Crusader staff report
Retiring State Senator Earline Rogers (D-Gary) on Monday, April 25, was given the Sagamore of the Wabash Award, the highest honor in the state that has been given to presidents, ambassadors and prominent professionals.
Governor Mike Pence presented Rogers with the award for her many years of public service.
The award is a fitting tribute to Rogers, who announced her retirement in January after 34 years in Indiana politics. Rogers said she would spend winters in Arizona at her son’s home alongside her husband, Chuck Rogers, a retired Gary firefighter.
Among lawmakers, Rogers developed a reputation as an education leader in Indiana. A graduate of Roosevelt College and Career Academy (former Roosevelt High School), Rogers is a life-long resident of Gary, who spent 38 years teaching in the Gary Public School system and today works as an education consultant. She was an honor student at Roosevelt High School and senior class president. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University in Bloomington.
Rogers brought her passion for education to the Indiana Legislature. During his presentation of the award on Monday, Pence said the first time he met Rogers, she told him she was a retired teacher who look forward to sharing her opinions about education with him.
“Senator Earline Rogers was a teacher to me in every sense of the word,” Pence said, according to news reports.
Rogers said her career has been “quite a journey” and thanked her family members. She also expressed gratitude to fellow lawmakers who attended the presentation. They included Representative Vernon Smith (D-Gary), Hal Slager (R-Schererville) and Bill Fine (R-Munster).
The Sagamore of the Wabash award was created during the term of Governor Ralph Gates, who served from 1945 to 1949. Governor Gates was to attend a tri- state meeting in Louisville with officials from the states of Ohio and Kentucky. Aides to the governor discovered that the governor of Kentucky was preparing Kentucky Colonel certificates for Governor Gates and Senator Robert A. Taft, to represent the State of Ohio. The Hoosiers decided that Indiana should have an appropriate award to present in return.
The term “sagamore” was used by the American Indian Tribes of the northeastern United States to describe a lesser chief or a great man among the tribe to whom the true chief would look for wisdom and advice.
Each governor since Gates has presented the certificates in their own way. It has been said that one governor even resorted to wearing full Indian headdress as he read the scrolls. The award is highest honor which the Governor of Indiana bestows. It is a personal tribute usually given to those who have rendered a distinguished service to the state or to the governor. Among these who have received Sagamores have been astronauts, presidents, ambassadors, artists, musicians, politicians, and ordinary citizens who have contributed greatly to Indiana’s Hoosier heritage.
Sagamores have been conferred upon both men and women. There is no record of the total number which have been presented, as each governor has kept his own roll; just as each has reserved the right to personally select the recipients.
Senator Rogers joins this worthy group of recipients