Alan T. Nolan


IUPUI Spirit of Philanthropy Award (2003)
Honorary Degree (1993)
Doctor of Humane Letters
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: Thomas Erlich


During Alan Nolan's distinguished career as both a respected labor lawyer and Civil War historiographer, one thread linked his two professions: a commitment to civil liberties. Mr. Nolan was one of the founders of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union and served on its Board of Directors from 1953 to 1960. From 1948 to 1954, he was a member of the Legal Redress Committee of the Indianapolis Branch of the NAACP, as well as vice president of the branch from 1950 to 1954.

Mr. Nolan has been a partner with Ice Miller Donadio & Ryan since 1958, having joined the firm as an associate in 1948. A graduate of Indiana University in 1944 and Harvard Law School in 1947, he had a one-year clerkship with Judge Sherman Minton of the 7th Circuit US Court of Appeals, Chicago, who would shortly thereafter go to the Supreme Court.

Born in 1923 in Evansville, Indiana, but raised in Indianapolis, where he has lived since 1933, Mr. Nolan first took his dedication to civil liberties out of the courtroom and into the world of books with the writing of As Sounding Brass. This novel, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1964, depicted a shocking miscarriage of justice, involving a young black man, which had recently occurred in Indianapolis. It won the Indiana University Writer's Conference Award for the Most Distinguished Work of Fiction by an Indiana Author in 1965.

This was not Mr. Nolan's first recognition for his writing. In 1961, he had received an award from the Indiana University Writer's Conference for the Most Distinguished Work of General Nonfiction by an Indiana Author. Based on impeccable research and written with flair, Iron Brigade, A Military History, originally published by Macmillan Company, is an engrossing book about a Midwestern unit of the Army of the Potomac. The unit participated in many of the major battles of the eastern campaign during the Civil War, including Gettysburg, and suffered among the highest casualties in the Union army. Republished in 1975 by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and again in 1983 by the Michigan Historical Society, it is now considered a model study of a military unit at the brigade level. Three decades after its appearance, many doctoral candidates still seek to emulate Mr. Nolan's research methods and writing style. The book also won an Award of Merit from the American Association of State and Local History in 1962.

In 1991, the University of North Caroline Press published an original and provocative analysis in which Mr. Nolan demythologized one of the icons of the Civil War: Lee Considered: General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History. Now in its third printing, Lee Considered was an alternate selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and a main selection of the History Book Club in 1991.

Mr. Nolan's interest in history has not been confined to literary or scholarly pursuits. He has been active in the Indiana Historical Society since 1976 and was elected chair of its Board of Trustees in 1986. His tenure is credited with the society's greater accessibility to scholars and the general public, and he is respected by members and staff for his knowledge, tact, and cheerful, constructive leadership.

Mr. Nolan has also served on the advisory board for the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, a project initiated in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. He had been a trustee of the Eiteljorg Museum since 1987 and was a director of the Indianapolis Art League for most of the 1980s. He is also a member of the American Bar Association and the Indianapolis Bar Association. As might be expected, given his knowledge about the Civil War, Mr. Nolan has shared his insight into the era through a series of articles and public lectures, many under the auspices of the numerous Civil War Round Tables that have spring up around the nation since 1950. In fact, Mr. Nolan was the driving force behind the establishment of the Indianapolis Civil War Round Table, which has been active since 1956.

Alan Nolan's life has been devoted to the study of people, their laws, and their history. His sense of social justice reflects that depth of understanding and enriches not only his public service, but also his professional attainments, both as a lawyer and as a historian.