Federal Judge Walter Rice with a copy of the law signed by President Donald Trump to name the federal courthouse in Dayton for Rice. Photo by Jim Otte.

Judge Rice vows to keep working as Dayton federal building takes his name

The name change was a bi-partisan move, sponsored by Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D- Ohio and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

“I truly am humbled by this. I refer to this in jest as a federal judge’s equivalent of a gold watch because we are fortunate to have life tenure. The only way you can get a judge to retire is probably to name a building after him,” Rice said with a laugh.

His comments came at an event with the courthouse naming panel which presented him with a copy of the law signed by President Donald Trump to rename the federal courthouse in downtown Dayton in his honor.

Panel member Debbie Lieberman, a member of the Montgomery County Commission, said each time the group met in search of a name to place on the building, Rice’s name not only came up, but rose to the top of the list.

“There was not anybody else who we would rather name it for. His love for this community is incredible,” Lieberman said.

Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald said she was interested in Rice receiving the honor in return for his work in the community on a variety of issues. McDonald was thankful for Rice’s work on race relations and the effort to help ex-offenders transition from prison back to life in their home communities to become productive citizens.

“It is a great opportunity to repay a lot of the greatness that he has given out in Montgomery County,” McDonald said.

The General Services Administration, which operates the courthouse, has not yet set a date for when the signage outside the building will be changed.

Rice, a Pittsburgh native, began his law career in Dayton in 1964 as an assistant Montgomery County prosecutor. After serving on the bench in the Dayton Municipal Court and the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, Rice was appointed by President Jimmy Cater to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in 1980.

With nearly 40 years on the bench, Rice said he plans to continue working. “I have been here well over half a century and as long as the good Lord gives me the health and ability to keep active I fully intend to do that,” Rice said.

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