Eugene S. Pulliam · 1987

By Steve Bell

The following is Pulliam’s obituary. He died Jan. 29, 1999.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Eugene S. Pulliam, publisher of The Indianapolis Star and The Indianapolis News and a staunch defender of press freedom during a 64-year news career, has died. He was 84.

Pulliam died Wednesday night, Jan. 20, 1999, said Cynthia Whisler, funeral director at Crown Hill Funeral Home in Indianapolis. She didn’t know the cause of death.

Pulliam became publisher after his father, Eugene C. Pulliam, died in 1975. The Star won the Pulitzer Prize that same year 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 America.”

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 inaccurate reporting.”

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 city.”

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 years earlier.

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 father’s death.
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.

In addition to his wife, Jane, whom he married in 1943, Pulliam is survived by daughters Myrta J. Pulliam, director of electronic news and information for Indianapolis Newspapers Inc., and Deborah S. Pulliam of Castine, Maine, a free-lance writer; son Russell B. Pulliam, editor of the News; and grandchildren Christine Ruth, Daniel Eugene, John Russell, Sarah Louise, David Wilson and Anna Jane Pulliam.


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