By Sherri Coner
As the kind of man who believed in using his heart and mind as often as possible, Republican Senator Jack Sandlin never avoided community needs or challenges.
After being elected in 2016 to represent District 36, he served until his untimely death at age 72, on Sept. 20.
Through the years, countless people from across the nation shook Senator Sandlin’s hand, shared boardroom meetings and appreciated his expertise in various areas of government and community.
As the devastating news of Sandlin’s death traveled around the state, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb described Sandlin as “a gentleman who devoted his life to serving others.”
While many immediately knew Sandlin’s stance on politically slanted subjects, not that many knew who else Sandlin was, especially when not looking past the nice suit and crisply starched shirt and tie.
As the third of eight children, Jack Eugene Sandlin was born in November 1950 and spent his early years in Brightwood, an area of inner-city Indianapolis.
Eventually, Lewis and Betty Sandlin moved their family to Johnson County and enrolled their children in Greenwood Community Schools.
After graduating in 1969 from Greenwood Community High School, the tall, lean Sandlin ventured back to Marion County to participate in the Indianapolis Police Department cadet program.
Just as quickly as that interest began to build, he entered the United States Army.
Though he was still a boy in more ways than not, Sandlin was headed to Vietnam.
Law and order
Following an honorable discharge from military service, he returned to Johnson County, joined the Indiana National Guard and went to work as an Indianapolis Police Department officer.
Believing that an education was equally as important as on-the-job experience, the GI bill made it possible for this ambitious young man to complete an associate degree in criminal justice. He then earned a business degree at the University of Indianapolis which led to an MBA at Indiana Wesleyan.
Along with exercising his mind, Sandlin made time in those years to also use his heart.
He married Lydia, his wife of more than 40 years, and they welcomed their only child Carrie into the world.
Along with serving with IPD, Sandlin worked for Southport Police and later the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. He worked with the SWAT team and was also an undercover officer.
It is no surprise that he was named Officer of the Year and then Deputy Chief of Investigations under Marion County prosecutor, Stephen Goldsmith.
Sandlin also served as Perry Township Trustee as well as a member of the Indianapolis City-County Council.
Joining the senate allowed Sandlin to enlighten colleagues about specific insights he learned while serving and protecting for so many years.
Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush noted that Sandlin’s military service along with more than 30 years in law enforcement and his understanding of the court system made him very important to various committees, from Corrections and Criminal Law to Veterans Affairs and the Senate Public Police as well as the justice system overall.
“He used his wealth of experience to connect legislative, executive and judicial stakeholders in an immensely important endeavor,” Rush said, adding that understanding and studying solutions for mental health problems in the justice system was one of Sandlin’s many specific goals.
“Jack’s voice and impact on our city will certainly be missed, “said Joe Eslener, Marion County Republican Party Chairman.
After volunteering for years at Perry Township Kiwanis Club in his home community, members were thrilled in August 2019 when Sandlin was inducted.
“Jack was very influential in Kiwanis,” said Scott Splichal, Perry Kiwanis co-president. “When he wasn’t in session in the statehouse, he was often at a meeting, keeping the club updated on what was going on and what affected our part of the world.”
While Sandlin was trusted to keep his community members and fellow Kiwanis members in the know, he was also the guy who offered a helping hand at the annual fish fry and other club activities. He also supported the yearly golf outing fundraiser.
“The State of Indiana, Perry Township and Kiwanis are much better because of Jack’s dedication and honesty – he wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is,” Splichal said of Sandlin, the proud grandfather of three who taught integrity to everyone in his life, simply by walking it every day.