The Indiana Citizen
September 21, 2023
Indiana lawmakers and colleagues are remembering Sen. Jack Sandlin, R-Indianapolis, who died suddenly Wednesday, as a dedicated public servant, “strong advocate for the people,” and personal friend.
Sandlin, a Republican (pictured above), represented Senate District 36, which covers portions of Johnson and Marion counties. He was first elected to the Indiana General Assembly in 2016 and won reelection in 2020, defeating Democratic challenger Ashley Eason with 53.9% of the votes.
“Jack Sandlin was a strong advocate for the people of Central Indiana and a champion of Indianapolis,” Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said in a statement Wednesday. “He was a valued member of our caucus, and we will feel his loss deeply. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family, friends and all those who will be affected by this sudden loss, especially his wife Lydia.”
A graduate of Greenwood Community High School, the University of Indianapolis and Indiana Wesleyan University, Sandlin spent most of his career in public service.
He joined the Indianapolis Police Department immediately after high school and then took time off to serve in the U.S. Army as a military police officer before returning to the Indianapolis Police Department, where he served more than 23 years before retiring in 1993 as deputy chief of investigations. He later served on the Southport Police Department for 14 years and as Perry Township Trustee for nine years, before being elected to the Indianapolis City-County Council in 2010.
In 1995, he opened a small business doing private investigations, fraud examinations and security consulting.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Chris Garten, R-Charlestown, called Sandlin a friend and said his passing is an “immense loss.”
“Jack relentlessly fought for those who elected him and was a tireless advocate within our caucus for veterans and law enforcement officials,” Garten said in a statement. “His dedicated service to our country and the great state of Indiana as a veteran, police officer and state senator was unwavering and will not be forgotten – those who knew him will ensure that.”
In his first run for the Statehouse, Sandlin defeated 2016 Republican primary opponent Jefferson Shreve, who is currently running for Indianapolis mayor.
“I am deeply saddened to learn the news of Sen. Sandlin’s passing,” Shreve wrote on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. “Sen. Sandlin lived a life of public service which was seen through his time on the police force, the city-county council and in the Indiana Senate. I had the pleasure of serving with Jack on the council and running alongside him for the senate seat. He was a kind man, a great competitor and has served our state well. Mary and I send our condolences to Lydia and Sen. Sandlin’s family. Our hearts are with them.”
Sandlin brought to the Statehouse an extensive knowledge of law enforcement. He served on the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee and during the 2023 legislative session, he authored two public safety bills that were signed into law. Both Senate Bill 136, which allowed the Indiana Office of Judicial Administration to establish a system to transmit certain data to help determine whether an individual is prohibited from possessing or carrying a firearm, and Senate Bill 187, which governed the hiring of police reserve law enforcement officers, had strong bipartisan support.
Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush remembered Sandlin working closely with the Indiana Supreme Court on important justice initiatives.
“Senator Jack Sandlin served as a valuable partner to the justice system. He used his wealth of experience to connect legislative, executive, and judicial stakeholders in an immensely important endeavor—developing solutions to mental health and justice needs,” Rush said in a statement. “He devoted significant time to join our judicial branch leaders at training and outreach events dedicated to behavioral health and justice. His passing is a tremendous loss to our state, but we are grateful for the years we had to partner with Senator Sandlin. Our condolences to his legislative staff and his family.”
Across the aisle, House Democratic leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, commended Sandlin for his dedication and service.
“Sen. Jack Sandlin was a dedicated public servant who stood by his convictions and worked to advance Hoosiers and the state of Indiana,” GiaQuinta said in a statement. “I send my sincerest sympathies to his loved ones during this difficult time. There are no words that can ease their pain, but I hope the knowledge that Sen. Sandlin devoted the last 13 years of his life to making a difference in his community and throughout the state – in both the City-County Council of Indianapolis and later in the Indiana State Senate – is a reminder of his leadership and legacy.”
The last Indiana legislator to die in office was Steve Davisson, R-Salem, who passed away in September 2021 after a battle with cancer. His son, J. Michael Davisson, was appointed by a Republican caucus to fill the remainder of his term.
Dwight Adams, a freelance editor and writer based in Indianapolis, edited this article. He is a former content editor, copy editor and digital producer at The Indianapolis Star and IndyStar.com, and worked as a planner for other newspapers, including the Louisville Courier Journal.