J. Edward Roush
Every time someone dials “911” for an emergency, they are tapping into the legacy of J. Edward Roush.
As a U.S. Representative from Huntington, Roush’s signature legislation is the national emergency number, but his impact on Huntington, the state and country goes well beyond that singular act.
Roush came to Huntington from Oklahoma and graduated from Huntington High School. He earned a degree from Huntington College, joined the Army in 1942 and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. He returned from military duty and attended the Indiana University law school on the G.I. Bill.
Returning to Huntington with his wife, Polly, he practiced law in Huntington and served in the Indiana state legislature from 1949-50, when he re-entered military service in the Korean War in counterintelligence. When he came back to Huntington, he was elected as Huntington County prosecuting attorney and served from 1954-58.
Roush was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1958 and earned re-election through the 1968 elections. He returned to Congress when elected again in 1970 and remained until losing to Huntington’s Dan Quayle in 1976.
During a Congressional hearing on fire safety in 1967, Roush was questioning a representative of the International Association of Firefighters, who noted
that time was a major factor in fighting fires and saving lives. Roush proposed establishing a single, three-digit nationwide phone number for responding to emergencies. He worked tirelessly with a reluctant phone industry, and in January, 1968, the 911 emergency phone system, was announced, and Huntington became the first city in the country to install the program, and Roush made the first call. Roush’s efforts to get the system created has resulted in the saving of countless lives.
He served with the Environmental Protection Agency and his focus on environmental issues and work with the Wabash River flood control project resulted in the building of the Huntington Dam. The dam and Huntington Reservoir were renamed J. Edward Roush Lake and Roush Dam in his honor in 1997. He also advocated for the creation of the Salamonie and Mississinewa reservoirs, and sponsored legislation for the establishment of the Dunes National Lakeshore.
Following his political career, he returned to his law practice, and served as an interim president of Huntington College. Roush died March 26, 2004.