Frank O'Bannon


IU Southeast Chancellor's Medallion (1997)
IU Southeast Chancellor's Medallion
Location: New Albany
Presenter: F.C. Richardson
Maurer School of Law Academy of Law Alumni Fellows (1997)


Frank O'Bannon was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and was raised in Corydon, Indiana. The O'Bannon family owned the Corydon Democrat, the town's newspaper. He attended Indiana University, playing for the Hoosiers basketball team for one season at the same time as Bill Garrett, the school's first African-American player. He earned a bachelor's degree in government in 1952. Following graduation, he served in the U.S. Air Force for two years before returning to Indiana University, where he earned a law degree in 1957.

After law school, he practiced law in his hometown and worked part time for the O'Bannon Publishing Company, publisher of weekly newspapers in Harrison and Crawford counties. He also was a member of the board of Corydon Savings and Loan. He was elected to the Indiana State Senate in 1970, where he served as Democratic floor leader from 1979 to 1988. In 1988 he was elected lieutenant governor; he was reelected in 1992. O'Bannon was elected governor in 1996, serving until his death in 2003.

As governor, he made improving public schools his top priority, particularly in the areas of assessment of student achievement and accountability of students and their schools. O'Bannon vastly expanded the children's health insurance program, making it one of the most successful such programs in the nation. He established the state's first community college system. He was committed to advancing Indiana as a true crossroads of America, both for highways and fiber optics. O'Bannon also served a term as the chairman of the Midwestern Governors Association.