Robert Dean (Bob) Garton


Biographical Note:

Robert Dean (Bob) Garton was born in Chariton, Iowa, on August 18, 1933 and earned his B.S. degree from Iowa State University and an M.S. from Cornell University.  From 1955-1957 he served in the U.S. Marine Corps, achieving the rank of first lieutenant.  Upon leaving military service, he worked for Proctor and Gamble and then moved to Columbus, Indiana to work for the Cummins Engine Company in personnel.  In 1961 he established Robert Garton Associates in Columbus, specializing in management recruitment.  In 1962 he won the Toastmasters International Speech contest.  In 1964 he was one of five alumni selected by the student body at Iowa State to develop an honorary master's program designed to initiate a dialogue between students and businessmen.  In 1968 he was chosen one of Indiana's five outstanding young men by the Indiana Jaycees and also unsuccessfully ran as the Republican candidate for Congress from Indiana's 9th District.  In 1969-1970 he served as chair of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission.

Garton was first elected to represent the 41st Senate district in the Indiana General Assembly in 1970, defeating an incumbent in a primary election.  During his first term he served as assistant chairman of the Finance Committee, chairman of the Interstate Cooperation Committee, chairman of the Constitutional Revision Subcommittee, of the Judiciary Committee, and member of the committees on Governmental Affairs, Public Health and Welfare, Labor, and Roads and Transportation.  In 1972 he chaired a personnel policy study committee that resulted in new grievance procedures for state employees.  He was selected as one of the outstanding freshman legislators by the State House Press Corps and named one of one hundred most promising legislators in the nation by the 1972-73 Eagleton Institute of Governmental Affairs at Rutgers University.  Noteworthy during the 1973 session was his sponsorship of the Equal Rights Amendment and impassioned extemporaneous speech in support of its ratification, a position shared by only two of his fellow Republicans in the Senate.  

He was elected to a second term in 1974 and again served as assistant chairman of the Finance Committee as well as chairman of the Insurance and Corporation Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee and was a member of committees on Elections and Apportionments and Metropolitan Affairs.  In 1975 he was appointed by President Pro Tempore Phil Gutman to chair an interim study committee to recognize and celebrate the 100th session of the Indiana Legislature, the outgrowth of which was Dr. Justin E. Walsh's extensive The Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly, 1816-1978 and two volumes of biographical sketches of legislators serving during those 100 sessions (Indianapolis, 1987).   

In 1976 Garton was elected minority caucus chairman and in 1978 majority caucus chairman.  

In 1980 he was elected President Pro Tempore, in which position he served until 2006, the longest tenure in that post in Indiana history.  Two of his immediate predecessors having been convicted on bribery charges and sent to prison, Garton made integrity of process a central goal, along with consistency in managing it.  During his first year as President Pro Tempore, an ethics law was passed that he then added to the Senate rules.  Under his leadership, Senate rules were revisited before the beginning of every session and strictly adhered to.  He strengthened the authority of the President Pro Tempore significantly, requiring all conference reports to be approved by the Senate Rules Committee after a specific date during a legislative session; requiring any conference report containing subject matter not passed by one House to be referred to the Rules Committee and, if approved, placed on a separate bill calendar; and assigning all vehicle bills (those without language) to the Rules Committee for approval of proposed language and reassignment, rather than to a standing committee where members and chairs could insert any language.  He appointed all members of Senate standing committees, based on recommendations from the Minority Leader and Senate Republicans.  He was particularly strict in his requirement that all amendments to Senate bills and House bills in the Senate be germane to the subject matter of the bill and would send committee reports containing non-germane language back to delete for revision.  He assigned bills he opposed to the Rules Committee, which he chaired, thereby ensuring that they did not reach the Senate floor. He also added a provision to both Joint Rules and Senate Rules requiring the signature of the President Pro Tempore to be on all final versions of enrolled bills, certifying the bills as accurate, before they were sent on to the Governor.

Garton introduced other changes, such as changing the make-up of interim study committees to be half from the House, half from the Senate; appointing an increasing number of women to leadership positions; and upgrading Senate staff policies to include written job descriptions, performance reviews, an articulated grievance procedure, a prohibition on lobbying senators, and hiring of fulltime staff to keep up with the workload.  In the late 1980s he led the process of computerizing Senate procedures, first through electronic voting and the resultant computerized voting records, then providing computers for staff and eventually senators.   

In 1984-85 Garton served as Chair of the Midwest Legislative Conference.  He  was a member of the Executive Committee of the National Conference of State Legislators from 1989-1992, and was selected as the Republican Legislator of the Year by the National Republican Legislative Leaders Association (the "Lee Atwater Award") in 1991.

In 1995 Garton explored the possibility of running for governor, then launched his campaign in July but withdrew from the race in early December.

In 1996 he became Executive Assistant to the President and later Vice President of Professional Development at Ivy Tech Community College.  During the academic years 1995-1997, he was a visiting professor in Political Science and Leadership at Franklin College and served as trustee from 1998-2010.

In 1999 he was co-recipient of the William M. Bulger Excellence in State Legislative Leadership Award in honor of his demonstration of "those qualities of leadership -- integrity, compassion, vision and courage -- that have made the legislature a stronger institution."  That year he also received the Legislator of the Year Award bestowed by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union.  In 2000 he received the Indiana Public Servant of the Year Award bestowed by the Indiana Association of Rehabilitation Facilities and in 2001 the Distinguished Public Service Award of the America Legion of Indiana and the Award for Outstanding Contributions to Business Education of the North Central Business Education Association.   In 2002 he received the National Federation of Independent Business Chairman's Award and in 2005 the first Virgil "Gus" Grissom Leadership Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies.  In 2006 he was honored by the naming of the Robert D. Garton Veterans Plaza in Columbus and of the Robert D. Garton Conference Room at the Columbus Learning Center.  In January 2007 he received the First Freedom Award from the Hoosier State Press Association, which cited among other things his leadership in ensuring the passage of the Open Door Law and the Access to Public Records Act.  He is one of 37 legislative leaders in the nation who has served on the Board of Directors of the State Legislative Leaders Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization representing legislative leaders and key democratic parliamentary leaders across the globe.

The Collection (27 linear feet):

The bulk of the collection consists of records related to legislative work during Garton's tenure in the Indiana Senate (1970-2006) and his years as President Pro Tempore (1976-2006), with substantial files from political campaigns, clippings and photos, and some post-2006 materials related to his work in the Senate.

Status of the Collection:

The collection is fully processed, with a detailed online finding aid.

Researcher Access:

Prior arrangement is necessary to use these materials, as they are stored offsite.  Contact