Virginia Dill McCarty


McKinney School of Law Distinguished Alumni Award (1987)
Honorary Degree (1986)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: John William Ryan
Distinguished Alumni Service Award (1979)
B.A., 1946; LL.B-I., 1950; LL.D., 1986


The distinguished career of Virginia Dill McCarty is an eminent model of the traditions of legal scholarship and commitment to the public welfare. In her work for state and federal government and in her extensive community service, she represents the highest ideals of professional responsibility. As an attorney in both the public and private sectors, Mrs. McCarty has long been a thoughtful, energetic, and principled advocate of good government, law and order, fair labor practices, and the rights of under-represented groups. An expert on state laws, she has worked to strengthen the judicial system of Indiana, and by her public service and participation in the process of government she has enriched the lives of persons and organizations throughout the state.

Virginia McCarty was born at Plainfield, Indiana, and received the B.A in government and law from Indiana University in 1946. She entered the Indiana University School of Law, earning the LL.B. in 1950. Her capabilities were early demonstrated in her service as Indianapolis editor of the Indiana Law Journal, election to the Order of the Coif, and graduation cum laude and first in her class on the Indianapolis campus.

Mrs. McCarty's intellectual strengths and commitment have established her at the top of a profession that, especially in the early years of her career, was not readily open to women. In the 1950s she served as an attorney for H.P. Wasson & Co., and for the United States Office of Price Stabilization at Indianapolis, and as final title examiner for the Union Title Company. In the early 1960s, as special consultant to the House of Representatives' Criminal Justice Committee, she was principal author of the theft law. Her abilities were acknowledged and given greater scope in 1964 with her appointment as deputy and then assistant attorney general for the state of Indiana. In the former position, she formulated labor legislation that is in effect today. She participated in the 1969-70 Indiana Legislative Council's revision of the 1905 Indiana Code and her brilliant draft of Titles Four and Five eliminated many of the technicalities that had been carried over from 1905. The resulting clear and concise body of law is incorporated essentially unchanged in the 1976 Criminal Code.

Mrs. McCarty served for the attorney general of Indiana as a member of the Law Enforcement Training Board; the Criminal Code Study Committee, for which she drafted the Offenses Against Property Act; and the Criminal Justice Planning Committee. She has been a member of the Indiana Board of Law Examiners, the Indiana Property Tax Codification Committee, and the Indiana Lawyer's Commission. In 1975-76 she chaired the Criminal Justice Sub-committee of the Governor's Privacy Commission.

Mrs. McCarty was nominated in 1976 by the Indiana Democratic Party as its candidate for attorney general. While campaigning, she brought attention to inequities in the Hoosier inheritance tax law as it affected surviving spouses, and after the election worked with legislators of both parties to change the law.

In 1977 Virginia Dill McCarty became the first woman in U.S. history to be appointed by the President to a full term as a United States Attorney, serving the Southern District of Indiana. She met the demands of this prestigious position with outstanding ability, ethical concern, and devotion to the enforcement of the laws under the federal system. Mrs. McCarty's stature was evidenced by her selection as one of fifteen U.S. attorneys nationwide to serve on the Attorney General's Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys. As liaison for this committee to the Statutory Federal Advisory Committee, she assisted in the development of national corrections policy.

Mrs. McCarty has generously contributed her time and effort to many civic, community, and state organizations. A firm believer that women should carry more responsibility in political affairs, she founded the Greater Indianapolis and the Indiana Women's Political Caucuses, which provide political education and experience for women in Indiana. She is a tireless catalyst, speaking to women's organizations throughout the state and inspiring others to develop their full potential.

The pursuit of excellence in her responsibilities as attorney, public servant, and citizen is the hallmark of Virginia McCarty's life. The excellence of her achievement has been recognized by many honors, including the Community Service Award of Women in Communication and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Political Action Award of the Indianapolis Education Association. She was named Woman of the Year by the B'nai B'rith Indianapolis Chapter in 1973, and in 1977 by the Indianapolis YWCA, the Indianapolis Star, and Women in Communication. In 1979 she received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award of Indiana University and an honorary doctorate from Indiana Central University. She has been president of the Federal Bar Association, Indianapolis Chapter; and is a member of the American, Indiana, and Indianapolis Bar Associations. Today in private practice in Indianapolis she continues public service and serves as counsel to state and local organizations. Virginia Dill McCarty stands among the most illustrious members of the legal and political community of Indiana. Her professionalism, strong sense of ethics, and generous and productive career of public service provide an example for young attorneys and others, and are the source of her influential voice in the life of this state.