John Corbin Patrick · 2000

John Corbin Patrick was, and is still, a fixture in the minds of the Indianapolis arts community. Patrick began his journalism career at the Indianapolis Star in 1925 and remained with the paper until 1988 after more than 60 years of service. Patrick spent most of those 60 years as the Star’s Drama Editor, and during his long tenure, debatably the longest tenure of a Drama Editor at a single paper, helped to make the Indianapolis Arts community into the thriving scene it is today.

Indianapolis has served as Patrick’s home since he turned seven years old and moved there from Tell City, Indiana. Like many young people, Patrick was a carrier for the Indianapolis Star while in grade school. Patrick left Indianapolis for South Bend and attended the University of Notre Dame from 1922 to 1925, but later transferred to Butler University, where he graduated in 1927.

By then, he had already served at the Star’s Copy desk, as a Sports Assistant, and as the Auto Editor. Soon after graduation, Patrick began upon the career path that would make him one of Indiana’s most respected journalists when he took a position as an Assistant in Drama.

Patrick became the paper’s resident music critic, and took it upon himself to become an expert. On a trip to Portland, Oregon, Patrick observed their arts scene and discovered that Portland had two things that Indianapolis lacked, a symphony orchestra and a civic auditorium to house it. Upon returning to Indianapolis, Patrick campaigned for an Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The public saw the need for such a group and soon thereafter granted Patrick’s wish. The symphony, Patrick believed, was the greatest change in the Indianapolis arts scene, moving from a basic beginning to a well-endowed orchestra with a 50-week schedule.

Early in his career, Patrick did not limit himself to print journalism. He also involved himself in the Indianapolis radio community. Patrick delivered a nightly newscast over WFBM, and was a part of the team that did the original live broadcast of the 500-mile race.

In 1941, the Star’s chief drama critic, Robert G. Tucker, retired and Patrick stepped in as the new Drama Editor. Over the next 47 years, Patrick witnessed and reviewed more than 5,000 shows and performances in the Indianapolis Area.

Patrons came to recognize Patrick as he quietly moved down the aisle and out the back of the theater to write his review for the early deadline.

Patrick was a founding member of the Indianapolis Press Club, its president from 1939-1942, and in 1980, the press club named him Newsman of the Year. Patrick was a member of the Indianapolis Sesquicentennial Arts Commission, National Screen Council, Society of American travel Writers, American Theater Critics Association, Society of Indiana Pioneers, Indiana Music Society and the International association of Theater Critics. In 1984, Butler University presented Patrick with an alumni achievement award. Patrick is also an outstanding member of the Society of Professional Journalists, a husband and a father of two.


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