The Herald Bulletin

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Local News

January 9, 2013

Former Anderson Mayor Robert L. Rock dies at 85

ANDERSON, Ind. — Former Indiana Lieutenant Governor and Anderson Mayor Bob Rock was not a politician.

“He was just a man who knew how to make government work,” said his wife, Mary Jo Rock.

Robert L. Rock, whose career in Indiana politics was marked by pushes for industrial development, tourism and foreign trade, died Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 85.

State Rep. Terri Austin and state Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, both of Anderson, issued a statement, saying Rock’s death “brought an end to a remarkable chapter of public service in the history of Indiana.”

“I am deeply saddened to see Lt. Gov. Rock pass,” Austin said. “He exemplified the true spirit of what it meant to be a public servant and inspires me to continue his proud, Democratic tradition of fighting for the middle class, creating good-paying jobs and being an advocate for education.”

Rock was born in Alexandria, on Sept. 8, 1927. As a child, he moved to Anderson to live with his Aunt Jessie and Uncle John.

“Our houses were 10 feet away,” said Mary Jo, via phone from Fort Lauderdale. “He always took care of me.”

Rock graduated from Anderson High School, and served in the U.S. Navy before earning his bachelor’s degree in business from Indiana University.

In 1956, he and Mary Jo wed. They had four children, who now live everywhere from Evansville, Ind., to London, England.

“Despite the immense obligations of public office,” Austin said. “He made his family his priority and they were involved in the multitude of good work he performed on behalf of our community.”

Rock began his state political career at age 26, with a successful bid for Indiana General Assembly.

In 1965, he took the office of lieutenant governor, under Gov. Roger Branigin, where he worked to build the state’s division of foreign trade, increase tourism, establish new airports and create an industrial revolving door fund to help communities attract new industry.

In 1972, he took office as Anderson’s mayor, following an unsuccessful bid for Indiana governor.

Rock’s two terms as mayor are marked by an expansion in the city’s parks system and a quality-of-life initiative, that “led to Anderson’s noteworthy status as an All American City,” said current Anderson Mayor Kevin S. Smith.

Rock was also responsible for the City of Anderson Transportation System and giving city workers access to the Public Employee Retirement Fund, said Linda Dawson, who worked in the city controller’s office when Rock was mayor.

She said she remembered his sense of humor and his affinity for “blizzard,” a card game he’d often play with friends and co-workers.

“He truly cared about the city employees, and about the city,” Dawson said.  

Rock’s time as mayor had its share of controversy. In 1979, a Madison Circuit Court grand jury handed down indictments of alleged official misconduct, theft and intimidation against Rock and 21 other people, all of which were later dropped.

But Mary Jo said that controversy is overshadowed by Bob’s love of government, state, family, friends and innovative ideas.

“When you think about his stature in the community, what he did to help people, that’s his legacy,” she said.

Austin added Rock would “always have a special place in my heart as well as in the history of Anderson and the state of Indiana.”

Visitation will be Friday, Jan. 18, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Rozelle-Johnson Funeral Home in Anderson. Service will be at 10:30 a.m. that Saturday, at First Presbyterian Church, 230 W. Ninth St.  

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook, on Twitter @BayleeNPulliam or call 648-4250.

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