Journalism Hall of Fame in 1966
Nine students founded Sigma Delta Chi, later to become The Society of
Professional Journalists, at DePauw in 1909. Three of those
founders were Psi Phi Dekes, Charles
Clippinger, and the
man credited as the primary founder, Eugene C. Pulliam.
Eugene Collins Pulliam was born May 3, 1889, in a dugout shelter in
Ulysses, Kansas, the only son of Irwin Brown and Martha Ellen Collins
Pulliam. Irwin Pulliam was a home missionary for the Methodist church.
Pulliam, an early entrepreneur, began selling newspapers at age six.
After graduating from Baker Academy at Baldwin, Kansas, Pulliam
entered DePauw University in 1906 and pledged Deke his freshman year.
The university had been his mother's alma mater when it was known as
Asbury College. He pressed pants to help finance his college education
and became involved in journalism early in his college career by taking
on the campus correspondent's job for the Indianapolis Star, the paper
he would buy 38 years later. He worked during his first summer vacation
at the Chanute (Kansas) Sun and during his sophomore year started the
DePauw Daily, the campus paper.
After graduating, his first job as a reporter came when the editor of
the Kansas City Star read Pulliam's story about a dishpan sale that
almost caused a riot when 600 women converged on the store. In one of
his first scoops as a reporter, he interviews W.K. Vanderbilt after
sneaking into an unlocked railroad car.
In 1912, he took over editing and publication of the Atchison
(Kansas) Champion becoming the youngest publisher of a daily newspaper
at age 23. Three years later he sold out and bought the Franklin
(Indiana) Star. By 1923 he sold the Star to buy the larger Lebanon
Reporter, beginning a steady career of buying and selling papers.
He moved to Oklahoma in 1929 and bought six small papers on credit,
floating bonds to raise the capital to form Oklahoma Newspapers, Inc.
His empire quickly expanded to include papers in Massachusetts, New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Florida.
During the depression he operated 23 papers never defaulting on a single
bond issue; he traveled over 100,000 miles a year to keep his papers
operating. He was elected president of Vincennes Newspapers in 1930, and
four years later was named president of the successor company, Central
Newspapers, Inc., which expanded to include other Indiana cities and
In 1944 Pulliam purchased the paper he had wanted since his days as a
correspondent: the Indianapolis Star. Two years later, he bought the
Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette, the largest morning and
afternoon papers in the state. In that same year he also purchased
Muncie Newspapers, Inc., publisher of the Star and Press. In 1948, he
purchased the Indianapolis News, the largest evening paper in Indiana.
During his lifetime, he owned more than 50 newspapers.
Although his business interests centered on the newspaper field, he
was involved in other areas of journalism. He was a director of the
Associated Press from 1958 to his retirement in 1970 and served as a
vice president. He also headed Indiana radio stations WAOV and WIRE
prior to 1960. He served on the advisory committee for Stanford
University's professional fellowship program and in 1966 was named a
trustee of the William Allen White Foundation at the University of
Kansas. He was on the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard
and on the board of directors of the Union Printers Home Association.
Pulliam was a publisher, but always like to be thought of as a simple
newsman. He never lost his flair for reporting. He and his wife traveled
to over 100 countries after World War II; during his travels he
frequently interviewed heads of state sending dispatched back to his
papers and the North American Newspaper Alliance. He continued to write
occasional editorials until his death.
Many presidents knew Pulliam as a personal friend. When he was a
young reporter he became acquainted with Theodore Roosevelt and remained
his friend until Roosevelt's death.
He was recognized with numerous honors during his lifetime, but two
which he treasured most highly were voted by fellow journalists. In 1966
he received the John Peter Zenger Award from the University of Arizona
for his support of the freedom of "the people's right to
know." In 1965 he was awarded honorary membership in the
International Printing Pressmen and Assistants Union of North America in
recognition of the "years of harmonious relationship that have
existed between the local union and Mr. Pulliam's organization." He
prided himself in the good working relationship he had with his
Sigma Delta Chi recognized Pulliam in 1967 by electing him a fellow
in the Society, and in 1969 by awarding him the Wells Key, the Society's
highest honor for a member. He was elected national honorary president
in 1959. Other honors included honorary degrees from Wabash College,
Indiana University, Huntington College, Franklin College, Indiana
Technical College and Vincennes University in Indiana. Also he received
honorary degrees from Arizona State University, Baker University in
Kansas, and Norwich University in Vermont.
Pulliam died at his retirement home in Arizona on June 23, 1975,
having served as a publisher for 63 years. He had been married three
His son, Eugene "Gene" Smith
Pulliam, was born to his first
wife who died in 1917. Gene followed his father to DePauw and to
Deke. He was a member of Psi Phi's Class of 1935.
By his second marriage, Pulliam had two daughters: Helen Suzanne, who
married William Murphy, and Martha Corinne, who married James
"Jim" Quayle, a Psi Phi Deke in the Class of 1943. Their son,
James Danforth "Dan" Quayle, was named for his father's Deke
pledge brother, James Danforth, who was killed in WWII. Dan also
pledged Deke, and was in Psi Phi's Class of 1969.
Nina Mason Pulliam, Pulliam's third wife, was secretary-treasurer of
all of his corporations. In 1969 he established a trust which stated
that neither his Indianapolis papers nor his Phoenix papers could be
sold until 108 years after his death. He is buried in Lebanon, Indiana.
Eugene C. Pulliam was among one of the last of a breed of independent
publishers who were interested in newspapers for their own sake. He
believed that financial success insured journalistic independence.
Throughout his lifetime, he championed a free, independent press.
"The basic foundations of the newspaper business are
spiritual," he said. "As newspaper people, we have got to
preserve the freedom of the United States by always exercising our right
to protect against those who could become bureaucratic despots."
His nameplates carried the motto, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is Liberty."
He was known as a publisher who had the courage of his convictions.
His contributions to journalism include his own articles and speeches.
He continued to write and speak out about press freedom all his life. In
1973 he wrote a front page editorial, "We Can't Tolerate Government
Control of TV," which won first prize in national editorial awards
competition. For a time in the 1960's he wrote a syndicated column,
"Window on the Right." His speech at the William Allen White
Memorial Lecture on February 10, 1970, was a compelling cry for press
A major contribution to journalism was his founding of Sigma Delta
Chi with nine fellow journalists at DePauw. That simple beginning led to
the formation of the most highly regarded professional journalism
organization, Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi,
which has over 30,000 members throughout the United States.
Pulliam's papers all took on his trademark, a conservative editorial
view with some room for liberal opinion. But, he was not a
follow-the-leader conservative. He used his power as a publisher to
support candidates best suited to the office. He refused to support
conservative candidate Homer Capehart in his senatorial bid in 1962 and
gave only lukewarm support to Barry Goldwater in 1964. Pulliam came
under criticism for managing news in the 1968 Indiana primary when he
was accused of limiting coverage of Robert Kennedy. Pierre Salinger
requested an investigation of Pulliam's papers by the American Society
of Newspaper Editors, but the action was seen as a political move.
Pulliam answered the charges by calling Kennedy a spoiled child.
Reporting by Pulliam helped depose a dictator in 1958. When he and
his wife were on a routine news gathering trip to Turkey, they were
shocked by the actions of the oppressive Prime Minister Adnam Menderes.
Pulliam sent back a widely published expose on Menderes. When editors in
Turkey later printed Pulliam's articles, they were jailed, and that led
to the downfall of Menderes who was convicted and hanged by a
revolutionary court in 1961.
Another contribution of Pulliam was his attitude as an employer. He
helped break a stereotype of the publisher who just wants to make money
by his support of his own employees. He believed in backing his
reporters. The Pulliam newspapers own a 23-acre park in Arizona and a
16-acre park in Indiana for the exclusive use of employees. He offered
special vacation and Christmas bonuses, set up a credit union, and
employed over 60 widows of staffers on his papers.
In addition, he supported the development of young journalists. The
Eugene C. Pulliam Scholarship program was established in 1946, and in
1967 a Pulliam scholarship was established in journalism at Ball State
University. His foundations have brought young foreign reporters to the
United States to travel and study.
Above all, he was a champion of the First Amendment. He maintained
that no civil right including that of a fair trial is "worth a
tinker's damn unless it is protected by the right of free
expression." He said, "The First Amendment must take
precedence over the Sixth Amendment, because without the First
Amendment, the Sixth Amendment would become a mockery of justice."
President Lyndon Johnson said, upon Pulliam's receipt of the Zenger
Award, "By his courage and convictions, he has enlarged the freedom
of the American press and American people."
Pulliam was active in state and national government in many volunteer
capacities. During World War II, he was War Bond Chairman for Indiana
for which he was honored by the Treasury Department in 1973. He was a
member of the Citizen's Committee on Postal Reorganization and the Keep
America Beautiful Committee.
He has been a director of the American Institute of Foreign Trade and
a director of the New York Central Railroad. From 1925 to 1967 he was a
trustee of the New York Foundation for Economic Education. He was named
a director of the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, in
1962. He was also a member of the Herbert Hoover Cave Man Camp in
Bohemian Grove, California.
Pulliam felt that one of his outstanding achievements was in
persuading General Eisenhower to run for president. Pulliam, who knew
the general because they were both from Kansas, saw Eisenhower in Paris
twice urging him to come back to run. Pulliam had conducted polls in
Indiana and Arizona and used the information to convince Ike that
Senator Taft could not win. Pulliam remained friends with both Taft and
Eisenhower until their deaths.
He was especially interested in the education of youth. He served on
board of trustees at DePauw from 1934 to 1966 and established numerous
scholarship programs including the Hilton U. Brown Memorial Scholarship
at Butler University. He sent hundreds of young people to college
through the Central Newspapers Foundation, established in 1952.
Foundations established by him continue to support students.
His philanthropic work was extensive. He donated $30,000 to Indiana
University to establish a memorial at I.U. Medical Center for Belsey A.
Barton. In 1960 he donated $60,000 to DePauw to establish the Pulliam
Chair for American History. He believed that his newspapers should back
their local communities. His papers financially supported development
and expansion of hospitals, colleges, orchestras, zoos, museums, and
religious and health organizations. He donated over $250,000 to the
Phoenix and Indianapolis zoos. His interest in education for the blind
led him to support the Indianapolis Star Indiana-Kentucky High School
All-Star Games which are played each year in June with proceeds going to
Pulliam was a Rotarian, a Mason, and a member of the BPOE. He was
also a member of numerous professional and community organizations.
His contributions were generous; recognition for his work came in
many forms. He said, "If you forget everything else I've said,
remember this -- America is great only because America is free." He
championed that simple phrase all of his life.