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Harriette Bailey Conn (1922-1981)

Harriette Baily Conn Side OneHarriette Bailey Conn Side Two

Location: 1 North Capitol Ave, Indianapolis (Marion County, Indiana) 46201

Installed 2021 Indiana Historical Bureau, the University of Indianapolis, Indiana Humanities, Dr. Laura Merrifield Wilson, and Karlee Taylor

ID#: 49.2021.3

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Side One

Trailblazing African American lawyer and Indianapolis native Harriette Bailey Conn graduated from Crispus Attucks High School in 1937. After graduating from Indiana University’s Law School in 1955, she became a Deputy Attorney General for the State of Indiana. She later served as an Indianapolis Assistant City Attorney and advised the city’s Human Rights Commission.

Side Two

Elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1966 and 1968, Conn championed personal and civil liberties and housing reform. She also worked for criminal justice reform and in 1970 she became the first African American and first woman appointed Public Defender of Indiana. The public defender’s office expanded dramatically under her resolute leadership.

Annotated Text

Harriette Bailey Conn (1922-1981)[1]

Side One

Trailblazing African American lawyer and Indianapolis native Harriette Bailey Conn graduated from Crispus Attucks High School in 1937.[2] After graduating from Indiana University’s Law School in 1955, she became a Deputy Attorney General for the State of Indiana.[3] She later served as an Indianapolis Assistant City Attorney and advised the city’s Human Rights Commission.[4]

Side Two

Elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1966 and 1968, Conn championed personal and civil liberties and housing reform.[5] She also worked for criminal justice reform and in 1970 she became the first African American and first woman appointed Public Defender of Indiana.[6] The public defender’s office expanded dramatically under her resolute leadership.[7]


[1] “Certificate of Birth,” Indiana State Board of Health, Harriett Bailey Vesta Bailey, September 22, 1922; Indiana State Board of Health Coroner’s Certificate of Death, “Harriette Vesta Bailey Conn,” August 21, 1981, submitted by applicant.

[2] “Certificate of Birth,” Indiana State Board of Health, Harriett Bailey Vesta Bailey, September 22, 1922; Fifteenth Census of the United States District 8, Center Township, Marion County, Indiana, Page 157, Line 46, April 7, 1930, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; “Students Return From Various Colleges, Many Have Received Degrees,” Indianapolis Recorder, June 18, 1938, 5; “Legislature Keeps Attorney General’s Office Hustling,” Indianapolis News, March 7, 1963, 14; “Harriette Conn, 58, Public Defender,” Indianapolis News, August 22, 1981, 15; Harriette Bailey Conn Personal Biography, typed on Conn’s Professional Stationary, undated, submitted by applicant.

[3] State Board of Law Examiners for the State of Indiana, letter of admission, May 26, 1955, Submitted by applicant “Mother of Seven Earns I.U. Law Degree at 32,” Indianapolis News, June 11, 1955; State of Indiana Office of Attorney-General, employment certificate, Harriette Conn, October 3, 1955, accessed Indiana Historical Society; “Woman Attorney Named Steers’ Aid,” Indianapolis News, October 3, 1955; “Mrs. Conn to Aid Attorney General,” Indianapolis Star, October 4, 1955, 2; “Legislature Keeps Attorney General’s Office Hustling,” Indianapolis News, March 7, 1963, 14; “Harriette Conn, 58, Public Defender,” Indianapolis News, August 22, 1981;  Email correspondence, Indiana University Records Operations Assistant to Lindsey Beckley, Re: Degree Verification Request, February 13, 2020; Harriette Bailey Conn Personal Biography, typed on Conn’s Professional Stationary, undated, submitted by applicant; Myrtie Barker, “Selfishness: Crime Cause,: undated newspaper clipping, submitted by applicant.

[4] “Lugar Fills Eleven City Posts,” The Indianapolis News, February 14, 1967, clipping, submitted by applicant; “Banquet Honors Seven For Service,” Indianapolis Star, April 26, 1974, 9; “Harriette Conn, 58, Public Defender,” Indianapolis News, August 22, 1981.

[5] “Results of House Races in Indiana,” Indianapolis News, November 9, 1966, 11; “Legalized Abortion Bill Introduced,” Indianapolis Star, January 28, 1967, newspaper clip submitted by applicant; Hortense Myers, “Feminine Horizon,” March 1, 1967, 3; Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Indiana Ninety-fifth Session of the General Assembly Commencing January 5, 1967 Adjourning March 6, 1967, (Indianapolis: C.E. Pauley & Co. Inc.,) 1717; Legislative Action Calendar, January 9, 1967, accessed Indiana State Library; “Civil Rights Group Blasts Proposed Ind. Bias Law,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 28, 1967, 1; “Bill Aids Persons Displaced by Highway, Public Projects,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 28, 1967, 1; “House Action Awaited on Bokk Funding Dislocated Families,” Indianapolis Recorder, February 25, 1967, 1; “H.B. 1347,” Indianapolis News, March 3, 1967, 24; “Bill Aids Highway ‘Victims,’” Indianapolis Recorder, March 11, 1967, 1; “Concern Expressed on I.U.’s Expansion Aims,” Indianapolis Recorder, March 11, 1967, 1; “Abortion Bill Status Remains in Question,” Indianapolis Recorder, March 11, 1967, 14; “County Cote Tabulation Given,” newspaper clipping, November 7, 1968, submitted by applicant; Certificate of Election, “Harriette Bailey Conn,” November 12, 1968, accessed Indiana Historical Society; Legislative Action Calendar, January 9, 1969, accessed Indiana State Library; Sally Bly, “Rep. Conn Accepts Large Constituency,” (Louisville) Courier-Journal, January 12, 1969, 101; Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Indiana Ninety-Sixth Session of the General Assembly, Commencing January 9, 1969 Adjourning March 10, 1969 (Indianapolis: C.E. Pauley & Co., Inc.) 1769; Pat Purcell, “Women Join The Race For Seats in General Assembly,” Indianapolis News, undated, 35, submitted by applicant.

[6] “New Public Defender is Harriette Conn,” (Franklin) Daily Journal, March 25, 1970, 7; John Mason, “She Hopes to Lose Only 90% of Cases,” Indianapolis Star, March 29, 1970, 14; Susan Lennis, “Harriette Conn: Hoosier in Profile,” Indianapolis Star, June 24, 1973, 38; “Indiana High Court Orders Guilty Plea be Withdrawn, (Franklin) Dailey Journal, September 12, 1973; State of Indiana Office of Public Defender, Letter from Harriette Bailey Conn to The Mayor’s Black History Committee, February 28, 1978, accessed Indiana Historical Society; “Harriette Conn, 58, Public Defender,” Indianapolis News, August 22, 1981, 15; “Public Defender Harriette Conn, 58, Dies After Surgery,” (Muncie) Star Press, August 23, 1981, 36.

[7] Susan Lennis, “Harriette Conn: Hoosier in Profile,” Indianapolis Star, June 24, 1973, 38; “Harriette Conn, 58, Public Defender,” Indianapolis News, August 22, 1981, 15.