Carolyn Pickering Lautner · 1996
Who is Carolyn Pickering Lautner? A women’s libber? Naaa.
Her life chronicles a liberated woman long before the cause became popular.
She was the queen of investigative reporters in Indianapolis at a time when journalism was male dominated.
She had the respect of male journalists and her many valuable sources out on the news beat at a time when other women journalists were confined to the society section, writing about weddings, parties and trivia.
The men — and the women — called her Pick from her well-known byline of Carolyn Pickering.
She was as tough as the toughest in pursuing a story. But she remained kind and compassionate.
Today, she still is just plain Pick to legions of journalists, beat cops, police brass, FBI agents, G-Men, Secret Service agents, judges, law clerks, prosecutors, attorneys, politicians, welfare officials, prison bosses, bail bondsmen, crooks golfers and real estate professionals.
Pick had four careers — journalism, real estate, golfing, motherhood. She excelled in all.
We would be here all day if we tried to recite all her accomplishments but we will try to do her justice in the next few minutes.
A native of Anderson, Pick is a graduate of Anderson High School and Butler University. At Butler she was editor of The Butler Collegian and a member of the school’s basketball, volleyball, softball and golf teams. She earned a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia University.
While an 18-year-old student at Butler, Pick became a police reporter at The Indianapolis Star, breaking the male-only rule on the police beat. After graduating cum laude from Butler in 1945, Pick landed a job on the Chicago Herald-American.
She returned to The Star in 1952 where she remained until 1978 except for a brief period in 1969 when she was press secretary to then Governor Edgar D. Whitcomb.
For several years her principal beat was the Federal Building. She had the place sewed up.
Reporters from other news media had a helluva time getting stories out of the place. When Pick would be away from the beat on vacation or special assignment — and there were many — reporters from The Star had a rough time filling in for her.
If sources on the federal beat had a good story, they just would sit on it until Pick returned.
And with a deprecating smile they would tell you so.
One of those special assignments was in 1969 about bribery of city inspectors. She hid out in a room with sheriff’s deputies to watch an actual payoff of a city inspector by contractors.
Her stories about this triggered a massive grand jury investigation and numerous arrests. Later Pick and another Star reporter, Ed Frank, shared the first Lester Hunt award. It was for their work in exposing a nation-wide bail bonding business secretly backed by racketeers.
While the country was stunned in November 1978 by news of the mass suicide of more than 900 followers of Reverend James Jones in Jonestown, Guyana, it was not a surprise to readers of The Star who learned of Jones’ cult in 1973 stories by Pick.
She described how Jones started his church in Indianapolis before moving to California with his Peoples Temple congregation. Pick’s interview of a former Jones’ follower described the horror and abuses connected to his cult.
Pick once helped capture a dangerous escaped mental patient who came to The Star city room to tell of abuses at a mental facility. She wrote of the capture and followed through on the man’s charges of brutality.
Many honors came her way. One was the prestigious Cunningham Award of the Bar Association of the Seventh Federal Circuit in recognition of outstanding public service in interpretive reporting of news concerning activities of the Federal trial and appellate courts in the Seventh Circuit.
Pick’s reporting also included coverage of women’s golf tournaments. Pick is an avid golfer.
In the early 1970s she covered the Old Ladies Golf Association tournament. In her article she treated the winner rather poorly.
Pick wrote that the champion backed into the victory and then described how well the others played, nearly ignoring the well-played golf by the winner. The winner? Pick.
On the fiftieth anniversary of Pick’s victory in the Indiana Junior Golf Championship, Crooked Stick Golf Club honored her with the Women’s Classic Award.
The award recognizes Pick’s achievements as an outstanding woman golfer and for promoting women’s golf. For 25 years Pick was pulled from her job as a city desk reporter to cover city and state women’s golf tournaments for the sports section.
Success continued to follow Pick after her early retirement in 1978 from The Star to go into real estate sales. As a sales associate for an Indianapolis real estate company, she soon gained attention of the industry. In 1983 her real estate sales gross volume was four and a half million dollars.
She banked on her reputation of honesty and integrity as a journalist when she ventured into real estate.
If Pick had more time in her busy life which included rearing two children, one wonders what other successes we would be chronicling here today.
Pick — you indeed are a worthy and outstanding addition to the rolls of the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.
We love you and salute you!