SMITH PULLIAM, Class of 1935
September 7, 1914 - January 20, 1999
Journalism Hall of Fame in 1987
Eugene S. "Gene" Pulliam became the publisher of The
Indianapolis Star and The Indianapolis News after his father, Eugene
C. Pulliam died in 1975. His father was a member of Psi Phi
Deke's Class of 1910. Gene's sister, Corinne, married James C.
"Jim" Quayle, a member of the Psi Phi Deke Class of
1943. Their son, James
Danforth "Dan" Quayle, was named for one of his father's
pledge brothers, James Alexander Danforth '40, who was killed in the
Battle of the Bulge in WWII. Dan Quayle also is a Psi Phi Deke, in
the Class of 1969.
The year Gene became publisher of The Star, the paper won the
Pulitzer Prize for an investigation of police corruption and in 1991 for
a series on medical malpractice.
In the early 1950s, Pulliam assailed the smear tactics of Sen. Joseph
McCarthy and throughout his career defended the free speech protections
of the First Amendment.
He served on a special committee of the American Society of Newspaper
Editors formed to investigate McCarthy's attack on New York Post editor
James Wechsler. Pulliam concluded that the tactics of McCarthy were
``not only a threat to the freedom of the press, but also a peril to
In a 1991 interview he said, ``I think newspapers will continue to be
the only sizable check on government.''
He could be critical as well of the news media. When he believed the
press unfairly attacked vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle, his
nephew and at the time a Republican senator from Indiana, Pulliam
defended him in a signed editorial.
"During a political campaign that abounded with attacks on his
career, he kept his head high,'' Pulliam wrote after the Bush-Quayle
ticket was elected in 1988. "He refused to be upset by unfair and
Quayle once described him as "a man of independence and honor,
and a leader who views life in terms of serving others and improving our
Pulliam was born Sept. 7, 1914, in Atchison, Kan., and got his first
newspaper job after his family moved to Indiana, delivering papers as a
grade school boy.
Later, during summer vacation from study at DePauw University, he
earned 5 cents an item writing news briefs for the Lebanon Reporter. He
also was active in Sigma Delta Chi, now known as the Society of
Professional Journalists. It was co-founded at DePauw by his father 25
After graduating in 1935, Pulliam joined United Press, which later
became United Press International, working in the news service's bureaus
in Chicago, Detroit and Buffalo, N.Y.
He returned to Indianapolis in 1936 to become news director at radio
station WIRE, then owned by his father, and became a familiar voice to
central Indiana listeners of the era.
After Navy service during World War II, he joined the Star, which his
father had purchased in 1944. He worked as aviation editor, assistant
city editor and city editor. When the elder Pulliam bought the afternoon
News in 1948, Pulliam became the paper's managing editor.
In 1962, Pulliam became assistant publisher of the Star and the News.
In 1973, Pulliam was appointed executive vice president of Central
Newspapers Inc., parent company of the Pulliam newspaper group, which
included The Muncie Star and The Muncie Press later combined as the Star
Press The Vincennes Sun-Commercial, the Alexandria (La.) Daily Town
Talk, and in Arizona, The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazette,
which ceased publication in 1997.
He took over as publisher of the two Indianapolis papers at his
He was active in professional news organizations, serving on the
board of The Associated Press Managing Editors and as president of the
American Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.