Dayton’s federal building named in Judge Rice’s honor

Judge Walter Rice, greeting Dayton police officers and friends Friday at the ceremony marking the naming of the downtown federal building in his honor. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
Judge Walter Rice, greeting Dayton police officers and friends Friday at the ceremony marking the naming of the downtown federal building in his honor. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

Downtown Dayton’s federal courts building is now officially named after Judge Walter Rice.

The Walter H. Rice Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse assumed its new identity in a well-attended ceremony Friday afternoon, fulfilling bipartisan federal legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, and Ohio’s senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, a Republican. The re-naming was signed into law by President Donald Trump.

After listening to friends and colleagues praise him for more than an hour, Rice at last rose to call the event and the building’s naming “the honor of a lifetime.”

“I am humbled and without adequate words to express my feelings,” Rice said.

MORE: Fuyao fined for firing workers, newly revealed records show

President Jimmy Carter appointed Rice a federal judge for the Southern District of Ohio in 1980. The nine-story building at 200 W. Second Street has not had a name since it opened only five years before that appointment in 1975.

Turner, in his remarks, noted that the U.S. House of Representatives, where he serves, has a rule precluding the naming of public buildings in honor of people while they live.

“We violated that rule,” Turner declared, to laughter.

Turner worked with Brown and Portman to introduce the naming legislation in the Senate, which has no similar rule. The Senate duly passed the bill.

“We were able to play catch on the House side,” the congressman said.

The process of the renaming began in 2016, when Turner first said he would introduce legislation to name the courthouse, based on a community panel’s recommendation. In late 2017, that panel opted to christen the building in Rice’s honor.

“We were all honored to serve on this committee and strongly believe it is an honor well deserved for Judge Rice,” Dayton attorney Merle Wilberding said in November 2017.

MORE: GE Aviation-Vandalia lands $56.6M defense contract

That sentiment was echoed repeatedly Friday.

“Obedience is commanded, but respect is earned,” John Rion, dean of Dayton’s criminal defense bar, told Rice. “You, sir, have earned it.”

“To this day, when I think about justice, I try to think about what Judge Rice would do,” said Ben Glassman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.

“He exemplifies what a federal judge should be,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

Rice served as chief judge of the court from October 13, 1996 to October 12, 2003. He assumed “senior status” on the court in 2004. In 2014, he received the Thomas J. Moyer award for judicial excellence.

New as the name is, it actually has been in play for some time. A U.S. General Services Administration web site already refers to the building by the new name.

About 235 employees go to work at the building each day.

About the Author