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November 5, 2013

Tincher honored as Sagamore of Wabash

Served 24 years in Indiana Legislature

TERRE HAUTE — Wabash Valley Democrats rose to their feet Tuesday night to applaud Vern Tincher, a retired long-time state representative, one of the latest Hoosiers honored with The Sagamore of the Wabash, among the highest honors awarded in Indiana.

Tincher received the honor from his long-time co-legislator, Clyde Kersey, a Democrat, who still represents Indiana’s 43rd House district.

Members of the Indiana House and Senate are permitted by Gov. Mike Pence to nominate two individuals each year for a Sagamore. Kersey’s other choice this year, announced Monday, was Bill Felts, director of the 14th and Chestnut Community Center, a faith-based haven for intercity youth.

“It was my pleasure to serve 24 years,” Tincher said upon receiving his Sagamore, an honor started in the 1940s by then-Gov. Ralph Gates. Tincher named a string of fellow Wabash Valley Democrats with whom he served in Indianapolis, adding, “I think we did a lot for the Wabash Valley and Vigo County.”

Speaking after accepting the Sagamore, Tincher said he continues to play a role in politics, but doesn’t miss running for office every four years. House terms are only two years, meaning the campaign essentially never stops, he said.

Tincher, 77 who remains physically active, ruled out running again for the 46th District seat, but said he is often asked to get back in the ring. He said he looks forward to supporting Jim Mann, a Vigo County educator, who is taking a second run at the 46th District seat. Republican Bob Heaton, who narrowly lost to Tincher in 2008, currently holds the seat and defeated Mann in 2012.

Tincher represented the district for 24 years, but lost close elections twice, once in 1994 and again in 2002. He chose not to run for re-election in 2010.

Tincher received his Sagamore of the Wabash in front of about 120 partisan supporters at the Southside Democrat Club dinner at the Operating Engineers union hall on U.S. 41 South. In the audience were local elected officials, party leaders and Mike Claytor, Democratic candidate for state auditor, among many others.

Since its inception, it is estimated more than 14,000 Sagamores have been awarded across the state by Hoosier governors. Some governors have awarded thousands of the awards. Gov. Mitch Daniels awarded just 245 and instituted the Sachem Award, given to just one person a year, as the highest state honor.

Also Tuesday night, state Democratic Party chairman John Zody, 36, who spoke at the dinner, said Indiana Democrats have “a lot of work to do” over the next three years, beginning in 2014 with state legislative and county elections. Mayoral races take place in 2015 and the governor’s office is back on the ballot in 2016, said Zody, who was born in Terre Haute.

Speaking later, Zody, who lives in Bloomington, said “the energy across the state is good” for Democrats. His job will be to ensure that county parties are strong and have the technology they need for modern elections, including a strong communications outreach.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or

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