Robert P. Early · 1979

By Jackie Thiesing

An Indianapolis native, Robert P. Early, retired managing editor of the Indianapolis Star, was born October 3, 1905, the son of Henry Patrick and Emma Florence (Niklaus) Early. A 1923 graduate of Cathedral High School, Indianapolis, Early began his journalism career with the Indianapolis bureau of the United Press in 1925, worked for a time in 1926 on the Connersville (Ind.) News-Examiner, and joined The Star staff as a reporter in 1927.

A member of The Star’s staff for a total of 52 years, Early became assistant city editor of The Star in 1940 after working various beats for 13 years. In 1944, Early became city editor, and in 1946, he was named managing editor of The Star, a position which he held for 33 years until his retirement in 1979.

Known throughout Indiana as a crusading editor, Early led The Star staff to a host of public service and journalism awards, including the Pulitzer and a host of other awards for its extensive copyrighted series on corruption in the Indianapolis Police Department.

Other honors received by Early include the Pall Mall Award in 1948 for “distinguished service to his community in the field of journalism,” and the American Headliners Club Award in 1964 for The Star’s coverage of the Indianapolis Coliseum disaster in 1963.

Early received the Indiana Newsman of the Year Award from the Indianapolis Press Club in 1969. He also received the honor of Sagamore of the Wabash that same year. In 1979, Early was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.

Considered a legend in his own time, Early played an important role in The Star’s operations down through the years and was considered a powerful force in shaping and directing events in Indianapolis. Early guided The Star staff’s coverage of many important news events and numerous public service campaigns. Upon his retirement, the Associated Press referred to him as “the opinionated and undisputed boss of Indiana’s largest daily newspaper.”
Early is a past president of the Indiana Associated Press Managing Editors Association, a member of the National Associated Press Managing Editors Association, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists – Sigma Delta Chi, the Indianapolis Athletic Club, and a charter member of the Indianapolis Press Club. He has served as a member of the board of directors of the “500” Festival Associates, the Indianapolis area chapter of the American Red Cross, and the United Fund of Greater Indianapolis (now United Way). He has also served on the Indianapolis regional board of trustees of the Indiana Vocational Technical College.

Early and his wife Helen (Schluttenhofer) were married August 26, 1935, and have three children: Robert Joseph, managing editor of the Arizona Republic; Mrs. Sharon Severence of Denver, Colorado; and Thomas Christian. Early presently resides in Indianapolis.

Journalistic Contributions:
Early solved a murder which police at first had written off as an accidental death. He received the Pall Mall Award for “distinguished service to his community in the field of journalism.” This famous Speedway murder case of 1930 was dramatized in 1948 and featured on “The Big Story” program by WIRE-NBC.

He received the American Headliners Award in 1964 for The Star’s coverage of the Indianapolis Coliseum disaster in 1963.

He received a Casper award in 1974 from the Community Service Council of Indianapolis for his role in the seven-month investigation into the Indianapolis Police Department. The Star also received a Pulitzer prize, the George Polk Memorial Award, Drew Pearson Award, the National Headliners Club Tom Paprocki Memorial Award, and the public service award of the Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi, for this corruption series.

Other Contributions:
He headed a campaign in association with the late Lester Hunt for introduction and passage of the Indiana Anti-Secrecy Law (Hughes Act) in 1953.

Early originated the campaign for daylights on highway vehicles. He received the Crossroads Award in 1963 for The Star’s daylight running light campaign.

He received the “Man of the Year” award in 1963 from Lodge 86, Fraternal Order of Police for assistance to Police Athletic League clubs.

He originated the Indianapolis Yard Parks campaign (city beautification) and received the Mrs. B. Lynn Adams Award in 1965, presented by the Hillsdale Rose Festival for “service in furthering the beautification of the Indianapolis Metropolitan area.”

He directed The Star campaign which resulted in reform of the Indianapolis Municipal Courts by the 1969 legislature and changes in the bail bond law.


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