- Associated Press - Monday, May 8, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Retiring Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert Rucker was awarded one of Indiana’s highest civilian honors Monday during a farewell ceremony where he called his legal career and time on the high court “an exciting and humbling journey.”

More than a dozen of Rucker’s relatives joined Gov. Eric Holcomb, former justices and current judges for Rucker’s retirement celebration at the court’s Statehouse courtroom in Indianapolis. The hour-long ceremony was filled with praise for Rucker from the court’s four other justices, Holcomb and others.

The governor presented the 70-year-old with a Sagamore of the Wabash award, telling Rucker that he wanted to add one more award to the well-adorned walls of his home study.

“The Sagamore is only given to those with deep wisdom, who counsel governors, who give of your talents to the betterment or the enrichment of our state, someone who is a trailblazer, and you define that,” Holcomb said.

Rucker, a native of Canton, Georgia, who grew up in Gary, is retiring on Friday. A Vietnam veteran, he was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for heroism.

Rucker was named to the court in 1999 by Democratic Gov. Frank O’Bannon, becoming only its second black justice ever. He served on the Indiana Court of Appeals from 1991 to 1999 and amassed 26 years of judicial service, including 18 years on the high court.

In his remarks, Rucker thanked his current and former law clerks and colleagues for their assistance over the years.

“For more than a quarter of a century, it’s been an honor beyond measure. It’s been an exciting and humbling journey,” he said.

Rucker said in January he had decided to retire five years before reaching the court’s mandatory retirement age of 75 because he wants to spend more time visiting his 17 grandchildren, traveling with his wife and exploring other interests.

A state commission last month chose county judges Vicki Carmichael, Christopher Goff and Matthew Kincaid as finalists for the vacancy on the court. Holcomb has until late June to choose one of them to succeed Rucker.

His replacement will mean all five of the court’s justices have been appointed since 2010 by Republican governors.

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