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Indiana buying Ohio River site from ex-Gov. Whitcomb

ROME, Ind. – A former Indiana governor is selling the state 144 acres of rustic land along the Ohio River so the public can enjoy the site for years to come.

Former Gov. Edgar Whitcomb will turn over the land Monday in a ceremony in the Perry County town of Rome, where he now lives. Gov. Mitch Daniels and Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman are expected to attend.

Whitcomb was Indiana’s Republican governor from 1969 to 1973. He bought the Ohio River property in the 1990s and built three cabins there, according to The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/WvRCrU).

State officials won’t say what they’re paying for the land, but Department of Natural Resources spokesman Phil Bloom said Friday it is below the property’s appraised value. The Perry County assessor says the land could go for more than $20,000 an acre if Whitcomb sold it for development.

Bloom said the state likely will rent out the cabins.

Whitcomb, who turns 95 next month, moved to the property in search of solitude after a life of politics and high adventure. He was a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II and escaped by swimming long distances at night between islands in the South China sea.

He married a fashion model, became a lawyer and won his first political office in 1966 when he was elected secretary of state.

He dropped out of politics in 1972 but sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 1976. He lost that race to Richard Lugar.

Whitcomb returned to practicing law in Seymour, but he became restless. He divorced, bought a sailboat and made a solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

At age 78, he attempted another major crossing, but his boat sank in the Gulf of Suez. He then returned to southern Indiana and bought the bluff along the Ohio, where he lived alone in a cabin without electricity.

“It’s a beautiful place with a terrific view,” Whitcomb said, “and I’ve enjoyed it, and now I’d like the public to enjoy it.”

The acquisition is part of a Daniels plan to acquire more wilderness land to mark Indiana’s 2016 bicentennial.

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