U.S. District Court Judge Walter H. Rice already has his portrait hanging in his courtroom, but he joked that the federal building in downtown Dayton having his name on it will have a practical use.
“This is good, because I’m rapidly reaching the age where I may not know where I am,” Rice told this news organization, “so it will be helpful.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) assembled a panel last year to choose a name for the site, which has not had a formal designation since its 1976 construction. The group recently unanimously chose Rice, and the change awaits final legislative approval.
“I knew that there was a committee convened to make recommendations to the Congressman,” Rice said, “but I am certainly incredibly honored just to have it get this far.”
The panel was chaired by Dayton attorney Merle F. Wilberding and included Amanda Wright Lane, a great-grand-niece of the Wright Brothers, Dayton History Chief Executive Brady Kress and eight other members.
Turner credited Rice for his decades of service of work in the community including at the Dayton’s Veterans Administration and Wright Brothers historic sites.
Rice, born in 1937, was appointed to the federal bench in June 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. He served as chief judge of the court from Oct. 13, 1996, to Oct. 12, 2003.
Rice assumed “senior status” in 2004 and received the Thomas J. Moyer award for judicial excellence in 2014. Rice’s first job in law was in 1964 when he was an assistant prosecutor for Montgomery County.
Rice plans to work long after the building is officially named for him.
“This does not mean retirement, and I hope to remain doing what I’m doing for many years,” Rice said. “But anytime that someplace where you’ve worked for 38 years might bear your name is a flattering deal beyond any ability to describe.”
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