Robert Hayes


Former Indiana State Representative Robert E. Hayes, 83, of Columbus, died Tuesday, May 2, at his home.

He is survived by his wife, Marilyn; daughter, Jennifer; son, Eric (Sally Poling); grandson, Conner; and brothers, Donald of Boulder, Colorado, Phillip of Evansville and Michael of Indianapolis.

Bob and his three brothers grew up in Rensselaer, Indiana where he met his high school sweetheart, Marilyn Padgitt. Bob starred on the high school basketball team and in the winter of 2017, he was inducted into the Rensselaer High School Basketball Hall of Fame. Bob graduated from Rensselaer High School in 1951, matriculated at McMurry College in Abilene, Texas and then received his Bachelor of Science degree from Northeast Missouri State College (now Truman University). He was financially able to attend both schools because of basketball scholarships. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1956 to 1958 on the USS Ticonderoga, an aircraft carrier, which gave him the opportunity to sail the globe. After his naval service and Marilyn’s graduation from Miami University of Ohio, they were married, as Bob pursued a master’s degree at Florida State University. In subsequent years, the couple moved home to Rensselaer where their children were born and Bob pursued a teaching career. Seeking better opportunities, they moved to Indianapolis where Bob taught history in the Perry Twp. Schools and went to Indiana University Law School at night.

Bob and Marilyn discovered Columbus during a day drive exploring areas for Bob to start his law practice. They were immediately taken by the Columbus community and drawn in by the city’s exceptional modern architectural aesthetic.

Bob practiced law and Marilyn managed the office, becoming Hayes and Hayes Attorneys, upon their son’s graduation from law school.

Politics was Bob’s vocation and avocation. After Watergate, he ran for State Representative. A lifelong progressive Democrat, he represented District 59 in the Indiana House of Representatives for nine terms (18 years). He was the only Democrat to ever serve more than one term from the 59th despite its perennial status as a very Republican district.

Bob was a trusted legislative strategist and eventually became Deputy Democratic Floor Leader and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He was a strong advocate for public education and women’s rights. He was a primary sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Indiana was the last state in the Union to pass it in 1977. He was the author of the Rape Shield bill that helped prosecute rapists by preventing a victim’s irrelevant sexual history being detailed at trial as evidence of consent.

Bob authored legislation that we take for granted today. Sexual and racial harassment could be ignored or tolerated by employers and the only remedy was to file a worker’s compensation claim, as if the offending conduct was an accident. Giving employees the right to sue made employers responsible for their work environment and vastly reduced harassment in the workplace in Indiana.

It used to be permissible for government to be conducted in secret before Bob authored the Open Meetings (Sunshine) Bill. It mandated that any proposals be discussed and voted on in public meetings. With this law, government officials could not meet privately before a public meeting to pre-decide the outcome of a public issue. Other legislation closed loopholes in DUI laws that allowed those breaking the law to escape responsibility in cases of serious injury or death.

Bob’s proudest legislative achievement was the Living Will legislation. It allowed people to decline medical intervention when terminally ill and die with dignity. Passing it was a four-year struggle and he received a rare standing ovation on the House floor from his colleagues for his tireless efforts.

The family loved visiting our national parks and in recent years Bob and Marilyn enjoyed traveling in their RV to the gulf coast of Florida. He became an avid golfer and was a near daily presence at Greenbelt golf course with his buddies, the Choose Ups group, during his retirement years. Locally, he was a member of the Kiwanis Club, Eagles and Moose Fraternal Organizations and North Christian Church where he was an elder.

Bob received many legislative awards including: Robert Dale Owen Legislator Award for his work to expand the Living Will Law; Friend of Freedom award, Sigma Delta Chi, Society of Professional Journalists, for authorship of “Open Meeting” law; “Outstanding Freshman Legislator” in 1975 as determined by Indiana political columnists; Women & Work 8th Annual Conference, for Outstanding Leadership in Support of Women and Work – 1994.

A Memorial Service is planned at 2 p.m. on May 12 at North Christian Church. The family requests that in lieu of flowers memorials be made to Planned Parenthood of Indiana, 200 S. Meridian St., Suite 400, Indianapolis, Indiana 46225 or ACLU of Indiana, 1031 E. Washington St., Indianapolis, Indiana 46202.

Online condolences and special memories may be shared with the Hayes family at