This is the tenth of our Court Times articles that highlight up close and personal a member of the Indiana Judiciary. Knox County Superior Court Judge Jim R. Osborne is our judge featured in this issue. Judge Osborne served as a Knox County Deputy Prosecutor from 1975-1976 and as the Knox County Court Judge from 1976 through 1987 when the Indiana General Assembly converted it into a Superior Court. Governor Robert Orr appointed him to serve as the new Superior Court Judge effective January 1, 1988. He was first elected as Superior Court Judge in 1990, and re-elected in 1996, 2002, and most recently in 2008. He graduated from Indiana State University, in 1967, and Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis where he received his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1974. He is a graduate of the Indiana Judicial College in 1983. Judge Osborne is a former member of the Judicial Ethics Committee, and previously served for 15 years as a member of the Board of Directors, of the Judicial Conference of Indiana. He currently serves on the Vincennes University Foundation Board of Directors. Judge Osborne is also a Major in the Indiana Guard Reserve.
What do you like the most and the least about being a Trial Court Judge?
I like the variety of civil and criminal cases and the other interesting and challenging tasks of being a judge while off the bench. I feel very fortunate to have the support of an outstanding and hard working staff, each of whom have helped make this job more manageable. I don’t have many complaints as I look back over the past 34 years on the bench. If I may venture an opinion, I guess I’m from the old school and believe that cameras in the courtroom should rarely, if ever, be allowed. Courtrooms have always been an open forum and there is no need for cameras rolling to prove that.
What was your major in college and why did you decide to study law?
My undergraduate experience was at Vincennes University and Indiana State University. I majored in history and government. After teaching history for 4 years at my alma mater, Vincennes Lincoln High School, I decided to be a lawyer and began my first year at Indiana University Law School-Indianapolis in the fall of 1971. I think having lived through the ‘60s I wanted to be an advocate for people and causes.
What would you do if you were not a Judge?
I would be practicing law and in my non-working hours I would be doing about all the same things I’m doing now.
Who are the people you most admire?
In my teens, I admired Winston Churchill and John Kennedy along with my football coach and history teacher. Today, I greatly admire the men and women of our Armed Services who have served our country, especially in time of conflict. Everyone should be grateful for their sacrifices.
What are your favorite hobbies or favorite leisure activities, and how did you first get involved?
I have always had a fascination for history and have enjoyed collecting historic artifacts, especially military. When I was 8 years old, my Father brought home a Civil War musket. Our next door neighbor gave me a box full of his war souvenirs that helped history come alive for me. I continued through grade school and high school filling my parents’ basement with items that I acquired from veterans of World War I and II, and also from a dozen Spanish-American War Veterans who were living in Knox County. I was interested in the artifacts and the stories that went with them, and only regret that we didn’t have video cameras. During my college days, the collection also included artillery pieces; and, during my teaching days, it expanded into autographs, ranging from Civil War Generals to United States Presidents.
My law school days were my lean years but after graduation I once again collected significant military artifacts including command cars, half-tracks, tanks and other vehicles from World War II. Some of these tanks and vehicles have appeared on TV programs, and in movies, including The Blues Brothers and A League of Their Own. I have collected these artifacts from a variety of sources and places, including veterans, antique shops, yard sales, other collectors, and overseas. The collection now includes thousands of military items from the Civil War to the present, including uniforms, insignia, weapons, gear, field equipment, artillery, vehicles, and aircraft.
In my quest for artifacts I have travelled from coast to coast in our country and to many points in Europe, especially England, France, and Germany. I’ve participated in digs in the battlefields of Normandy and helped discover Hitler’s basement at Berchtesgaden, which was erroneously thought to have been totally destroyed in 1952. I have met hundreds, probably thousands, of veterans and former commanders, ranging from the famous, General Maxwell Taylor, to the infamous, Albert Speer, all with stories worthy of remembering. It has been a unique and rewarding experience.
At the urging of many friends, I helped establish the Indiana Military Museum, a 501(c) (3) corporation, so that a large portion of the artifacts may be seen and enjoyed by others. The Museum is operated by a corps of 35 volunteers and continues to expand. We have recently acquired 14 acres adjacent to the George Rogers Clark National Park. We hope renovations can be completed on existing buildings by next spring and the Museum can move from its present location in 2011. My hobby has been interesting and exciting. I don’t know what else I would rather have done with my spare time.
What are your favorite books, and have you read any recently, or are reading now, that you would recommend?
I prefer reading non-fiction books. My favorite author is Stephen Ambrose who I consider to be not only a great historian but a consummate story teller. Ambrose makes reading history interesting and enjoyable, whether it is about Lewis & Clark or the D-Day invasion. I’m currently reading Interrogations: The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands, 1945 by Richard Overy, a Professor of Modern History at Kings College in London. He reviews the transcripts from several of the major defendants at the Nuremberg war trials in an effort to understand the mental and character weaknesses that made The Third Reich possible.
Where did you grow up and how would you describe your childhood?
I was lucky to have wonderful parents and grew up in Vincennes, with a short diversion to Mattoon, Illinois, where my Father built a drive-in theatre in 1950. Between the ages of 5 and 10 I saw just about every movie made, which instilled in me an interest in history. Vincennes is a town rich in history with the George Rogers Clark Memorial, William Henry Harrison mansion, and the site of the first Fort Knox. I lived half a block from Curtis G. Shake, a former Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice and the presiding judge for the U.S. Military Tribunal in the case against I.G. Farben Industries officials in Nuremberg, Germany. I spent many hours visiting with him and listening to his judicial experiences. Vincennes is a place where the friends you make growing up remain your friends for life.
Do you have a favorite quote?
I have two favorite quotes:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
“Everybody is ignorant only on different subjects.”
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
I have two criteria for vacations: if it’s for fun and excitement, I travel with the guys to historic sites, battlegrounds, etc.; and, if it’s for fun and relaxation, my wife Linda and I enjoy the beaches of the Dominican Republic or the mountain air and scenery of Austria.
Do you have a favorite meal, recipe, and restaurant?
Like a good Hoosier, I love fresh produce like sweet corn, new potatoes, strawberries, and Morel mushrooms (when you can find them). My favorite cuisine is Italian and I have 2 favorite restaurants in Vincennes: La Cucina and Procopio’s, and both have their distinct Italian recipes.