from Fall 2002 Fanfare
tells college kids to dream big and Don Daniel did. He had, in fact,
dreamed of being a lawyer since sixth grade.
But nowhere in his wildest dreams, admits Daniel, did he ever fantasize
about being a judge. Running unopposed in the general election this
fall, after emerging the victor in a tough Republican primary, Daniel
will be sworn in as Tippecanoe County Circuit Court Judge in January.
During his 27 years as a Lafayette attorney, family law became his
bailiwick. As a Circuit Court Judge he’ll also deal with family
issues – guardianships, adoptions, estates, trusts, divorces
and civil suits.
Daniel (wife Sandy is a Purdue grad and son Jim is a middle school
band director in Tennessee) promised himself he’d have a new
job by age 55 because burn-out presents a serious problem for lawyers.
“People come in and pour their hearts out and no one can ignore
that. It affects you. You end up struggling along with them for months
and months,” says the 56-year-old.
“A lot of lawyers run out of energy because people depend on
you so much.”
Daniel’s experiences as a judge pro tem gave him a taste for
the bench, and he decided to run when the opportunity presented itself.
Moving into new areas of law holds great appeal, but there are other
things he’ll miss – like working as part of a legal team.
“As judge pro tem there have been times when I’ve gotten
down off the bench and really felt like I did the right thing, and
did it well. When that happens you want someone to give a high five
to, and there’s no one on the judge’s team.”
At Purdue in the 1960s, Daniel was a member of the marching band
when it made its first Rose Bowl appearance and participated in the
first band trip to Venezuela in January 1966.
Memories from an elementary school performance on that trip remain
vivid. “Kids were on the balconies and surrounding us on the
school’s plaza. They were screaming and running up, wanting
to touch us. It was like we were the Beatles. Until I became judge
no one else had ever asked for my autograph.”
Looking back at the elements that shaped his character, “I
learned more about responsibility and leadership in band than in all
the other 102 credit hours I took at Purdue,” he says.
“My nightmare was never that I’d forget to study. It
was that I’d show up at the football field without my hat. I
still have that dream. When I’m under pressure, there’s
Throughout his adult life, music has been his escape. Daniel serves
on Purdue Bands Advisory Board, and always plays sax in alumni marching
band. In Alumni Concert Band, the Purdue Summer Band and the Lafayette
Citizen’s Band, he plays bass clarinet.
“I think it’s a more important escape now,” than
at Purdue, he says. “Kids can better express their emotions.
People who walk around in suits all day need something like music.”
If there’s time for yet another career in Daniel’s life
- after he retires as judge - he knows what he wants it to be. “I
want to play ragtime piano in a swamp bar in Florida. And I’m
reluctant to wait until I’m 68 to take off my tie for the last