The first time I met Ed Whitcomb was in 2006. I called the 43rd governor of the state of Indiana and asked if I could take him to lunch in his hometown of Rome to talk about property taxes. Before I could finish my request, he stopped me and told me to come to his home, and he and Evelyn would host me for lunch instead.
That’s just the kind of person Ed Whitcomb was to all he met. No one was a stranger to Ed, and I found that out very quickly. That afternoon in southern Indiana was the beginning of a decade-long friendship between Ed and me that I will be forever grateful for.
I have no doubt that God watched over Edgar Doud Whitcomb throughout his entire life. After leaving college to serve our country in World War II, he found himself worlds away from life in a small town when his base in the Philippines fell to the Japanese and he was taken prisoner. Facing abuse and torture, he escaped, swimming eight miles through shark-infested waters, only to be recaptured. Ed escaped a second time to China where he rejoined American military forces.
Back in Indiana after the war, Ed continued service of a different kind, getting involved in local and state government. He served first as a state senator, then as secretary of state before being elected governor in 1968.
Ed Whitcomb was a pure Hoosier at heart. Aside from his heroic war stories, his adventures from sailing around the world, and his term as governor, he served Indiana because he truly loved his state and knew that it meant so much to so many Hoosiers.
After he left office, he didn’t pay as much attention to what was going on in Indiana politics. He told me that he had forgotten that part of life in a way, but my visits helped rekindle his passion and interest.
Never thinking about himself, Ed mentioned to me a few years ago that he was donating his land in Perry County and his three cabins to the state of Indiana. He said he wanted the people to get as much enjoyment out of it as he had for so many years. The Edgar D. Whitcomb Wildlife Habitat will provide exactly that for generations to come.
As we said goodbye to my dear friend, I know that his memory will continue to live on with many of us. We’ll never forget his contagious sense of humor and the love he had for his fellow Hoosiers.
Rep. Saunders (R-Lewisville) represents Henry County and portions of Rush and Wayne counties.