Joseph H. Nixon · 1989
This speech was read at his induction into the Hall of Fame.
The late Joseph Henry Nixon of Wabash exemplified the best kind of Indiana newspaperman. He was involved and committed, a seeker of excellence who demanded much from his associates and more from himself.
A native of Terre Haute, he spent most of his life at Wabash, where he died in December, 1988, at the age of 75.
Nixon started his distinguished newspaper career as classified advertising manager of the Michigan City Dispatch in 1934 when the paper was owned by his father, Don Nixon, a member of the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame. He later held positions with other Nixon Enterprises Inc. newspapers – The Elizabethton, Tennessee, Star; the Peru, Indiana, Tribune; the Wabash, Indiana, Plain Dealer; the Frankfort, Indiana, Times; and the Brazil, Indiana, Times. He became chairman of Nixon Enterprises in 1980 and later was named chairman emeritus.
He was active in encouraging industrial development in Indiana and was a key figure in the location of the Bunker Hill Naval Air Station near Peru. The base now is known as Grissom Air Force Base.
He helped organize the Wabash Valley Association and was instrumental in the construction of the Mississinewa, Salamonie and Huntington reservoirs. Nixon also fought pari-mutuel gambling after it was authorized by the Indiana General Assembly. He volunteered his name as a plaintiff for a successful lawsuit in which the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that pari-mutuel gambling violated the state constitution’s ban on gambling. That ban since has been removed by legislative action and voter referendum.
During his busy business career, Nixon also found time to be active in many professional and civic organizations. He served the state as chairman of the Indiana Flood Control and Water Resources Commission and as a member of the advisory council of the Bureau of Water and Minerals. He was a former trustee of Manchester College.
Honors accorded him are numerous – Sagamore of the Wabash and Indiana Council of Churches Christian Service Citation, to name a few.
Nixon also has been honored by the comments of fellow newspapermen and others. Former Governor Matthew E. Welsh said in lending support for the nomination of Nixon into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame:
“Joe and I became acquainted as students at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1930s and we have kept in contact ever since as old and valued friends. ”I knew Joe to be a journalist deeply committed to a better Indiana as well as a very successful publisher of a number of Indiana papers.”
Richard W. Cardwell, general counsel of the Hoosier State Press Association and a member of the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame, said last December before Nixon’s death:
• “In my opinion, few individuals have performed more distinguished service to their communities, state and nation through journalism than Joe Nixon. ”I consider Joe Nixon to be a Renaissance man. The characteristics that make him unique have remained constant over all the years – an alert, inquiring mind, responsiveness to ideas and an eagerness to share them with others, sensitivity to the problems and plight of others and a broad-ranging variety of interests which led him into the arts, into environmental concerns, into religion, education and public affairs.”
In an editorial on the passing of Nixon, The Indianapolis Star said: “Joseph H. Nixon made Indiana more prosperous, safer, and a more caring place to live.”