Wilbur F. Pell, Jr.


Honorary Degree (1981)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: John William Ryan
Distinguished Alumni Service Award (1974)
B.A., 1937


On May 11, 1970, Wilbur Frank Pell, Jr. was appointed Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. There is no higher calling in the law profession than that of judge, and to have been so honored is a mark of Judge Pell's professional ability and reputation.

Wilbur Pell was born in Shelbyville, Indiana, in December, 1915. He attended Indiana University, graduating with an A.B. degree in 1937. Three years later he was awarded a J.D. degree cum laude from Harvard University Law School, follow┬Čing a highly successful career as a law student during which he had responsibility for the school's moot court work. He was admitted to the bar in the state of Indiana and entered practice with his father in Shelbyville. In 1942, Wilbur Pell's interest in law took a different direction. In August of that year he became a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. During the three years of his assignment with the F.B.I., he served as a special agent in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Birmingham, Alabama.

In November 1945, Wilbur Pell returned to Shelbyville and resumed the practice of law. After his father's death in 1947, he became the senior partner in the firm of Pell and Good, and from 1955 until his appointment to the bench he was senior partner in the firm of Pell and Matchett. His contributions to the legal profession during his many years in Shelbyville extend far beyond his own private practice. He served as Indiana's Deputy Attorney General from 1953-55.

Judge Pell has given his time to a number of professional organizations. He has served as President of the Shelby County Bar Association and the Indiana State Bar Association. He is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a Fellow of the American College of Probate Counsel. He is a member of the American Judicature Society, of the Commercial Law League, and of the Bar Association of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Despite his many professional responsibilities and duties, Judge Pell has been very active in civic and community affairs. He has participated in the Selective Service Board, and has served on the Board of Directors of the Shelbyville Community Chest, the Shelby County Fair Association, and the Shelby Chamber of Commerce. At the First Presbyterian Church of Shelbyville he was deacon and elder. Judge Pell has been especially involved in Rotary International since first joining the organization in 1940. Serving on many of its local and national committees, he acted as aide to the president of Rotary International.

Wilbur Pell was married to Mary Lane Chase in 1940 and the couple have two sons.