For more than 50 years, an Allen has been the legal guide of Salem Community Schools. James Douglas Allen - Doug to his old friends from Fredericksburg, Jim to his newer friends - graduated from law school in 1937 and planned to start working as a lawyer with Oliver Marks, a Salem attorney and also the treasurer of the City of Salem.
Before Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, the FBI was giving lawyers the chance to serve as special agents rather than being drafted into military service during the war in Europe. Allen, agreed and started serving as an FBI agent until the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"When they bombed Pearl Harbor, everyone went into the military," said James's son, David, sitting in his law office on the Salem Square. "We've all seen the pictures of people lining up on the street to join in."
James joined the Navy and served as a lieutenant in the Pacific during the war. His ship returned to St. Augustine, Florida, where the ship was mothballed. The process took about six months before he returned to Salem in late 1946 or 1947 to practice law. As he reestablished his practice and took up the post of Commander of the local American Legion post, he began working with the school system.
That was a position he held until he retired at the age of 79 and he passed away at the age of 86," said David. Between Nov. 5, 1952 and Nov. 3, 1954, he was also the 87th Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives.
Like his father before him, David also attended Law School, graduating with a bachelor of science degree in accounting from Indiana University-Bloomington in 1968 and then from law school at IU in 1971.
''I'd grown up seeing what my father had done and how he helped people and the amount of appreciation people had for what he did," said David. "My dad was a, pretty special guy. At that point, he was the youngest man to ever serve as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Indiana. So he was a leader, certainly a legislative leader. It seemed like a good opportunity to have a good lifestyle, help people and do work that was very satisfying."
Law was also a family business. David said his older brother, Jay, was also a lawyer and who, like their father, spent some time working as an FBI special agent for a few years.
"He practiced law for a little while with my dad and his partner, Mr. William Thompson, but he decided if he was ever going to travel, he needed to get it done before he and his wife started having children," said David. "He went into the FBI and lived in five or six places over a three-year period. He returned from the FBI and I returned from law school at about the same time.“
All three Allen’s worked together at the law firm in Salem with Thompson for many years.
"It was a really nice way to go through life," said David. "The way we structured our practice, and I think it's this way with most people, is that I had my cases and my dad had his cases and my brother had his cases, so we could all compare notes and encourage each other without stomping on someone else’s toes."
Within a few months of David's starting at the firm, he began working with his father on projects for the school.
It was the beginning of the elder Allen's hand-off of the mantle of SCS attorney to his son.
"Over the years, I did more and more and he did less and less," said David. "It was just one of those things that happened. One day, my dad said, 'Dave, I have this work I need done for the school. Will you help me with this?' Naturally, I said yes and it went from there. I always enjoyed it. When you run upon a school teacher, most of them, you can tell they're school teachers because of their love for children. It just comes out, almost out of their pores. That's easy to admire. I've always admired school teachers and appreciated them. I have four children who went to Salem Schools and they got great educations. One is a neurologist I with Duke University Medical, the other is a dentist who is training to become a periodontist at the University of Texas in San Antonio, one is a registered nurse and one is a substance abuse counselor. They all got good educations here. It's easy to like to help a school system. I always thought it was a great situation."
During his career, David also served as a deputy prosecuting attorney for Washington county.
He said he has always liked the Salem High School science and math departments.
"My daughters told me what they went to college with from Salem was as good as any of their peers," he said. "We had Mr. Greg McCurdy, who is an award-winning science teacher and I think we're very fortunate to have him and our administrative staffs have always been easy to work with and made it very enjoyable."
He added his appreciation for Judges Larry Medlock and Frank Newkirk, calling them "two of the hardest working judges" and were good to work with on cases involving 'the schools.
At this month's school board meeting, that 48-year period of David's life came to an end. He announced his, resignation as school attorney, though stipulated he would remain the school's legal counsel during an ongoing claim regarding the 2017 flood.
"I am, obviously, near the end of my career," said David. "I also like to build things. I've built over 100 houses and some commercial facilities. That's like a hobby for, me, and I’m going to continue to-do that for a while. I'm going to continue on with what I'm doing now. I do some work for the East Washington School Corporation, and I'll continue to do that as long as they want me to."
He said some of his most stand-out accomplishments as district attorney are the building projects.
"It's easy to pick the building project we've done," he said. "I think the Salem School System has an excellent physical facility, including the new safe room, which our former superintendent, Lynn Reed, really marshalled into place, along with our architect. We were the first in the state of Indiana to have one of these facilities. The general physical facility of the school system is easy to admire. It's a nice, well-kept facility."
The timing around his decision to step away as school corporation attorney, he said, comes with a newer school board.
"We have a fairly new school board and I felt this was a good time for them to pick someone who's maybe more relevant to them than I am," he said. "It was just a good time for me to step down.”
WEHLANN, Kate Leader, Democrat Staff Writer "Allen resigns as school attorney after nearly 50 years" "ALLEN RESIGNS AS SCS ATTORNEY" The Salem Leader Tuesday, December 17, 2019 Issue 51, p. A-1, A-12 firstname.lastname@example.org