Fremont A. Power · 1994
It took Fremont Power 40 years to finish college, which is about the same amount of time that he gave readers a higher education in real life through his stories and columns in The Indianapolis News.
During his 40 years as a newsman–36 years at The News until he retired in 1982–Power was a feature writer, rewrite man, medical reporter, science writer, executive editor, columnist, wordsmith and seasoned adviser for young reporters.
His affinity for newspapers began when, as a child, he delivered the Lebanon Reporter and The News. It continued in college when he was editor of the Indiana Daily Student at Indiana University. This was during the Depression, and after three years at I.U., he left without graduating. In 1977, five years before he retired from The News, Power achieved his degree.
But by then he had achieved a wide degree of respect within his city and his state for his caring, often controversial, daily column, which he began writing when he was named executive editor in 1965.
His columns were not frothy feature pieces. He took on issues and despots. He spoke up to denounce racism and religious intolerance. And he followed the advice of Eugene C. Pulliam, the late Star-News publisher: “Write what you think. If they start looking over your shoulder, let me know.”
Power was born in the farm community of Home Place in Hamilton County and worked first at The Indianapolis Times as amusements editor and as a sports and feature writer.
After a stint in the Maritime Service, he returned to Indianapolis in 1946 and went to work with The News. His first assignment was to put out a Saturday magazine, but that project never saw print–not Power’s fault.
He began writing features and doing rewrite for The News, which would become two of his distinctions: telling people’s stories and improving others’ writing.
He was good at both. Former News Statehouse reporter Jack Averitt recalled an early encounter with Power the wordsmith. “Fremont just changed a thing here or there, but by the time he had finished, that story was completely different. It just sparkled. He was just incredible that way with words and the language.”
And as a News editorial recalled when Power died in 1991, his columns often were “about the dispossessed of society – the homeless, those in institutions, the activist, the eccentric, the artist. He gave voice to the voiceless.”
In his own tribute, Indianapolis Star columnist Dan Carpenter recalled Power’s courage on one of Indianapolis’ biggest stories of the 1970s and ’80s _ school desegregation.
“Like those troublemakers who sought to register black voters in the South,” Carpenter wrote, “Power was treated as an incendiary by many for questioning our [Indianapolis’] peaceful, separate and unequal public school system. As demagogic politicians are doing today, they trotted out the lie of `neighborhood schools,’ and he saw through it. So did a judge, and now desegregation is reality _ not without difficulties, but with the historical necessity Power saw and felt ahead of his time.”
For his work, Power was selected “best columnist” three times by the Indianapolis Press Club and once as its Newsman of the Year.
But undoubtedly it was Power’s work in his own newsroom and his connection with his readers that were his biggest rewards, as News editorial writer David Rohn noted in nominating Power for the Hall of Fame:
“I still hear reporters at The News speak admiringly of Fremont’s wonderful and economical writing style, his willingness to tackle controversial issues in his columns, his dry humor and his ability during his years as an editor to improve the writing of others. I continually hear from reporter after reporter how Fremont was somebody who served as an inspiration and also as voice of counsel to both novice and seasoned reporters. His door was always open and his office invariably had reporters inside seeking advice on how to tackle a story. And, long after his retirement, I still continually hear people in the community lament that there is no Fremont Power around writing a column in Indianapolis.”
Power is survived by two sons, Michael and Stephen.