Stephen Moberly · 2016

moberly-webStephen Moberly is the recipient of the 2016 John P. McMeel Distinguished Service Award.

Stephen C. Moberly is the recipient of the John P. McMeel Distinguished Service Award for his work to keep the flow of vital government and political news transparent by sponsoring and/or introducing two bills in the 1970s and 1980s as a member of the Indiana General Assembly.

Moberly, now 75, sponsored the Open Door Law, passed in 1977, which gives the media in Indiana a powerful weapon in the search for truth. As an attorney, he was the principal sponsor of that law and others that guarantee public access to government meetings. Moberly also sponsored laws in 1979 and 1984 that strengthened the original legislation.

A Republican who was elected to the House of Representatives from Shelbyville, Moberly was ahead of his time in 1972. He was also the author or sponsor of other important legislation that helps keep government clean in Indiana. That legislation, enacted during his 18-year career, includes:

— Establishment in 1975 of the direct primary election for governor and U.S. senator in place of conventions that essentially secretly nominated candidates.

— Improvements in 1981 of the Lobbyist Reform Acts.

— Improvements in 1987 of the state’s ethics legislation.

The seeds for Moberly’s fight for openness in government via the media were planted when he was a student at Shelbyville High School. In 1958, Moberly attended the Indiana High School Journalism Institute for two weeks.  He was a high school correspondent for The Shelbyville News his senior year, writing a column of school happenings every other week.

“Without always knowing it, I’ve had printer’s ink in my blood,” he said recently.

“I had intended to major in journalism when I enrolled at IU in the fall of 1959,” Moberly added.  “However, I soon gravitated to the IU history department and then its law school.”

After being elected to the House, Moberly wrote a weekly column during legislative sessions for The Shelbyville News for 10 years.

Moberly has been recognized for his outstanding work on behalf of the citizens of Indiana in general and Hoosier journalism in particular.

In 1990, Moberly was awarded the Hoosier State Press Association’s First Freedom Award. Dick Cardwell, who was general counsel for HSPA at the time and one of the nation’s leading experts on the First Amendment, wrote in a letter to Moberly: “You are the first recipient for your contributions made in public service in the legislative branch of government. Your career has been so outstanding and so important to the public that we could not let it pass unrecognized.”

Moberly, an only child, held jobs while in school: sales clerk at Parks-Belk Department Store and a summer stint with the Shelbyville Street Department. At IU, while attending a summer session in 1961, he was the proofreader for the Indiana Daily Student and, the next summer, he was one of the two proofreaders for The Shelbyville News. While in law school, he worked part-time in the registrar’s office, and in his senior year, he was the special assistant to the registrar for domicile and worked in the admissions office.

Moberly, who decided to make law his profession during his freshman year at IU, started his career with George R. Glass at the Methodist Building in Shelbyville.

“I knew and admired lawyers and judges in Shelbyville, and my father worked with lawyers all of the time in his job in law enforcement, so legal matters were a subject of conversation in our house,” Moberly noted.

Moberly decided to get into politics in the spring of 1952.

“I always have been interested in politics, as were my parents. We got our first television set, and I was able to watch the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in the summer. I was for Ike, and my parents were for Taft,” he recalled.

In sixth grade, his teacher appointed him Republican chairman for his home room, and he led a campaign. Sitting up late to watch returns was exciting, and Moberly was hooked.

Moberly said his proudest legislative moment was his work to ensure public access, starting with the 1977 Open Door Law and including subsequent laws that strengthened it in 1979 and in 1984. He also authored a bill in 1989 that opened the proceedings of the State Judicial Nominating Commission to the public.

“I believe that government works best in a free society when its proceedings and records are open and available to the public for its edification and scrutiny,“ he said.

Among Moberly’s heroes are Abraham Lincoln, who “saved the Union and freed the slaves, and his leadership, writings and speeches contain much wisdom that is still very relevant today.”

Second is former IU President Herman B Wells, “because as president, he built a great Indiana University, where I met my wife, and IU provided me with a fine education, lifelong friends and remains today an institution that I love.”

— by Ray Moscowitz, board member

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