Thursday, March 21, 2019

"Nobody wanted us": The Freeman Field Incident


In January 1945 the American effort in World War II was reaching a climax. GIs in Europe had turned back the last German offensive on the Western front at the Battle of the Bulge, and in the Pacific Theater U.S. troops were recapturing the Philippines from the Japanese. While military operations were reaching a fever pitch overseas, back home in Indiana activity was winding down at a military installation that had awarded wings to approximately 4,000 airmen—Freeman Field, located near Seymour.

Although the U.S. War Department had placed Freeman Filed on an inactive basis on January 27, 1945, the air base soon became a proving ground in a different struggle—not against fascism on the battlefront, but against racism on the home front.

Denied access to the base’s officers’ club on account of their race, about sixty officers from the all-black 477th Bombardment Group, which was receiving bomber training at Freeman Field, were arrested on April 3, 1945, when they attempted to enter what the Indianapolis Recorder referred to as a “swanky and modern officers club set up by the outfit.” After the dust had settled, three officers—Roger C. Terry and Marsden A. Thompson, both of Los Angeles, California, and Shirley R. Clinton of Camden, New Jersey—faced a court martial, and approximately a hundred men from the air group were jailed at Godman Field in Kentucky.

The calm atmosphere of a small Civil Aeronautics Administration emergency field located southwest of Seymour changed following the Japanese attack on the American base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands, plunging the United States into World War II. On May 6, 1942, the War Department announced that the Seymour CAA field had been selected as a site for an advanced aerial training center for bomber pilots, to be designated as Seymour Army Airfield. The base, renamed Freeman Army Airfield on March 3, 1943, in honor of the late Captain Richard S. Freeman of Winamac, Indiana, included more than four hundred buildings and was built at a cost of $15 million. The 2,550-acre facility the federal government created in Jackson County was “the epitome of military airfield design,” according to Louis Osterman’s 1986 history of the base. The installation had an immediate positive financial impact on a community still reeling from the Great Depression.

Officially activated on December 1, 1942, under the command of Colonel Elmer T. Rundquist, the base welcomed its first group of soldiers just seven days later. The added population proved to be a boon for area businesses. “The stores were open on Saturday night then, and the sidewalks were packed from curb to store with townspeople, the farmers of the area and their families, and soldiers in their wool, khaki uniforms and jaunty overseas caps,” Seymour resident Carolyn Mahon told Osterman.

To help meet the soldiers’ recreational needs, the city had been planning, even before the first troops reached the base, to open a United Service Organization center. City officials organized a USO Council and obtained the use of the former Greeman Furniture Store. The club opened in December 1942 and was the scene of several dances and other activities for soldiers. The club, however, did not provide services to all military personnel stationed at the base. On January 21, 1943, the first members of the black 320th Aviation Squadron arrived at the Seymour field. The some six hundred squadron members were used primarily as service troops, performing such duties as cooking in the mess hall and tending the base’s twenty-acre garden.

Segregation was widespread in the armed forces during World War II. In fact, it was not until January 1941, after pressure from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other groups, that the Army Air Forces allowed blacks to become pilots. After being threatened with a lawsuit, the War Department established an air unit (later designated as the 99th Pursuit Squadron) for African Americans near the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The Tuskegee Army Air Field, however, was completely segregated at the outset, with fliers commanded and trained by white officers.

Opportunities for blacks in the Hoosier State at the start of the war were little better than those offered by the military. “It was nearly impossible to find in Indiana a public place, institution, or group where whites accorded blacks an equal and open reception,” historian James H. Madison noted in his history of the state from 1920 to 1945. Although there were no actual statutes on the books, in many towns blacks encountered so-called “Sundown laws,” forbidding them from staying in the city after dark. In most aspects of their daily lives, from eating in restaurants to attending movies, African American Hoosiers faced discrimination and segregation.

Jackson County was no different from any other Indiana community in the 1940s “in that segregation and insensitivity to civil rights issues were accepted facts of life,” Osterman noted. Because black troops stationed at the airfield could not use the white USO club in Seymour, the USO Council established a separate facility for them on West Tipton Street, which was dedicated on February 14, 1943, in ceremonies held inside the center because of severe weather. Reverend John L. Prentice, Jackson County USO Council chairman, formally presented the club to the city “as a channel of service for the citizens.”

Segregation continued to be a problem for the next black troops stationed at Freeman Field, the 477th Bombardment Group, which was part of the First Air Force. Under the command of a white officer, Colonel Robert Selway, a West Point graduate and Far East veteran, the unit “had traveled a rocky road since its activation in January 1944,” according to Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Jr. The first black graduate of the U.S. Military Academy in the twentieth century and a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, Davis took charge of the 477th during the height of the Freeman Field controversy.

The first black squadron to be trained in multiengine aircraft, the 477th had been originally stationed at Selfridge Field, located near Detroit. The field had a history of racial conflict. On January 1, 1944, some black officers who had attempted to enter the base’s officers’ club were blocked from doing so by the field’s commander, Colonel William L. Boyd, and another white officer. The refusal of service flew in the face of the armed force’s own rules, specifically Army Regulation 210-10. According to the regulation, officers’ clubs and other social organizations were mandated to offer “all officers on duty at the post the right to full membership, either permanently or temporary.” Alan Osur, who studied race relations in the AAF during World War II, found, however, that the military had “dogmatically pursued a system of segregation that was almost impossible to maintain. It even went so far as to violate War Department regulations in order to prevent the mixing of whites and blacks in officers’ clubs.”

Afraid that black “agitators” in the Detroit area might incite trouble with the airmen at Selfridge Field (race riots had broken out in the city in June 1943), the AAF moved the 477th to Godman Field near Fort Knox, Kentucky. At the new airfield black officers were able to enjoy the full use of the officers’ club. Racial relations, however, were not as harmonious as they seemed. While blacks used the officers’ club at Godman, their white supervisors used the facilities at the segregated Fort Knox. Osur pointed out that black airmen were powerless to protest the situation; since they were not assigned to Fort Knox, they could not use the facilities there.

Other problems plagued the black fliers at the Kentucky AAF base. Along with bad flying weather during the winter, the field suffered from a lack of proper hangar and apron space and the absence of an air-to-ground gunnery range. On March 1, 1945, the 477th moved from Godman to Freeman Field. Trouble, however, soon broke out between blacks and whites. The difficulties were not with Seymour residents, who, according to Captain Earl D. Lyon in his study of the bombardment group’s war service, “were less openly antagonistic” to black officers than residents of similar small towns located near army airfields. Instead, the racial trouble broke out on the base about a familiar issue—the officers’ club.

In attempting to keep black and white officers from using the same facilities, Selway, with the support of Major General Frank Hunter, took advantage of a loophole in army regulations by designating one officers’ club at Freeman for supervisory personnel and a second one for trainees. The issue came to a head on the night of April 5, 1945, when nineteen black officers, disregarding an assistant provost marshal’s order to stay out, entered the whites-only club. Shortly thereafter, two other groups of African Americans totaling seventeen officers joined the original group; all thirty-six were placed under arrest by the provost marshal. The next day, an additional twenty-one black officers were arrested when they tried to enter the club.

Through its public relations office, the command at Freeman Field attempted to place its own spin on the issue. It released a statement to the Seymour Daily Tribune to the effect that in the case of recreational facilities, it had “been a long standing policy which applies throughout the United States which maintains that it is unwise to have personnel in training utilizing the same recreational facilities with those who train them.” Although the two groups might use the same instructional facilities—classrooms, training equipment, airplanes, etc.—after normal duty hours “each . . . selects its own recreation and entertainment separately, on order that they may relax from their official status.”

Despite the air base’s best efforts, the outcry about the incident did not die down. First Air Force legal officers were soon on their way to Freeman Field to investigate the incident. They found that Selway’s original order was “inexact and ambiguous as to its meaning or purpose,” and all but three of the black officers were released (Clinton, Terry, and Thompson remained under lock and key for allegedly pushing the provost marshal when they entered the club). A new directive from the base commander Selway, however, sparked more protests and resulted in even more arrests.

Selway, with Hunter’s assistance, drafted an order for black officers to sign outlining what facilities different personnel could use on the base. The directive also included a place for black officers’ signatures indicating they had read and fully understood the order. Even when that designation was stricken from the order, and the black officers were asked merely to signify that they had read it, some continued to defy the authorities. A total of 101 blacks—who became known as the 101 Club—refused to sign and were flown to Godman Field and placed under arrest awaiting court martial.

Quentin P. Smith, who grew up in East Chicago, Indiana, and learned to fly while living there, was one of the 101 black officers arrested for refusing to sign the order. An Indiana State University graduate and former flying instructor at Tuskegee Institute, Smith, due to his large size, had to transfer from fighter aircraft to bomber duty. First Lieutenant Smith and the other black aviators did not receive a warm welcome when they arrived at Freeman Field. Smith remembered that Selway informed the group that, along with the officers’ club, the base’s tennis court and swimming pool were also off limits to them. The airmen did not greet the announcement favorably: “We booed the colonel loud and long,” Smith recalled.

The Hoosier native had a more direct confrontation with his white commanding officer after the officers’ club incident. Called into Selway’s office and asked to sign the new directive, Smith replied in a clear voice, “No, sir.” Even when threatened by the colonel with Article 64, stating that failure to obey a superior officer’s direct order could result in the death penalty, Smith stood firm.

Organizations throughout the United States, including the NAACP and black newspapers, swung into action on the officers’ behalf. The War Department received several letters of concern from lawmakers, including U.S. Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg from Michigan, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell from New York, and Congressman Louis Ludlow from Indiana. Congresswoman Helen Gahagan from California even telegraphed Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson urging that the officers be released. All these efforts paid off; in mid-April charges against the 101 black airmen were dropped and they were freed.

Charges against the three officers accused of pushing the provost marshal, however, remained. By the time the three came to trail, the 477th had a new commander, Colonel Davis, former leader of the black 332nd Fighter Group. An all-black court martial acquitted Thompson and Clinton of all charges, convicting only Terry for “offering violence against a superior officer.” He received a $150 fine.

The Freeman Field situation deeply troubled Davis. Although he could understand the underlying feelings of prejudice shown by white officers from the Deep South, he could not understand “putting the issue of segregated facilities ahead of the need to prepare the group for war; nor the decision to move the 477th from one airfield to another, which halted progress toward combat readiness for several months.” The 477th never had an opportunity to prove itself in combat, as the group was still at Godman Field when the Japanese surrendered to the Allies on August 14, 1945.

Although Freeman Field was place on the inactive basis shortly after the officers’ club fiasco, its role in America’s war effort had not ended. In June 1945 the War Department selected the base to serve as a testing ground for captured enemy aircraft. Once again airplanes filled the skies over Seymour. Two years later, the War Assets Administration gave the facility to Seymour, which used the base as a municipal airport.

Despite its crucial role in training aircrews for combat, Freeman Field’s greatest contribution to America’s fight against fascism was the incident with the black officers, which, as Osterman pointed out, “caught the attention of the military and forced a re-thinking of its policy of segregation.” That policy, however, remained in place for a few more years after the war ended. In July 1948 President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 8891 mandating the armed forces to integrate.

Truman’s order, however, could not instantly strip away the legacy left by the years of discrimination in the military. Perhaps reflecting the feelings of the hundreds of thousands of black troops who battled prejudice during World War II, Smith lamented, “Nobody wanted us.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A Woman of the Limberlost: Gene Stratton-Porter


Wandering through the fields on her father’s farm one morning, a young Wabash County girl heard a rifle shot, looked up, and spied a large bird plummeting to earth. Running to the spot where the bird fell, she discovered a chicken hawk with a badly broken wing and her father who was preparing to club the injured animal to death with his rifle. Distraught, the girl, already known by her neighbors as a nature lover, pleaded with her father to give her the hawk to nurse back to health. Her father angrily gave in to her wishes, responding: “God knows I do not understand you. Keep the bird if you think you can!”

Over the next few weeks the girl’s father, a minister, watched in amazement as the bird recovered and devotedly began to follow the child around the farm. Impressed, the preacher gave all of the birds on the family’s property to his daughter as a gift. “Even while he was talking to me,” the girl recalled, “I was making a flashing mental inventory of my property, for now I owned the hummingbirds, dressed in green satin with ruby jewels on their throats; the plucky little brown wren that sang by the hour to his mate from the top of the pump, even in a hard rain; the green warbler nesting in . . . wild sweetbriar beside the back porch; and the song sparrow in the ground cedar beside the fence.”

The affinity for nature shown by the Hoosier child expressed itself in other ways as the girl matured to womanhood. Through such books as Freckles, A Girl of the Limberlost, Laddie, and Michael O’Halloran, Gene Stratton-Porter won popular acclaim and, in time, came to believe that she was a latter-day Moses, leading the women of her day back to nature and away from the strictures imposed on them by society. She had some success; an estimated fifty million people have read her work, and her books have been translated into several foreign languages. By the time she died in a Los Angeles, California, traffic accident on December 6, 1924, she had become, as Yale pundit William Lyon Phelps termed her, “a public institution, like Yellowstone Park.”

Born on Hopewell farm in Wabash County, Indiana, on August 17, 1863, Geneva (later shortened to Gene) Grace Stratton was the youngest of twelve children. Her father, Mark Stratton, was a licensed Methodist minister and prosperous farmer. Her mother, Mary, became ill when Gene was five years old and died in 1875. While Gene had little formal schooling in her early years, she developed a lively interest in nature and wildlife. “By the day I trotted from one object which attracted me to another,” she noted, “singing a little song of made-up phrases about everything I saw while I waded catching fish, chasing butterflies over clover fields, or following a bird with a hair in its beak.” When her family moved to the city of Wabash in 1874, she began to attend school on a regular basis and completed all but the last term of high school.

On April 21, 1886, Gene married Charles D. Porter, a druggist and banker, who was thirteen years her senior. Living for a short time in Decatur, the couple moved to Geneva after the birth of their daughter, Jeannette, in 1887. “I did not write,” Gene Stratton-Porter said of her early days of marriage, “but I continued violin, painting and embroidery lessons, and did all the cooking and housework with the exception of the washing and ironing. I had agreed to love a man, and to keep his house neat and clean.” She did maintain her connection with nature by keeping several different kinds of birds in her household. After oil was discovered on some farmland owned by Porter, Gene Stratton-Porter used the new family wealth to construct in 1895 a fourteen-room, Queen Anne rustic-style home on the outskirts of town near the vast Limberlost swamp.

As Stratton-Porter herself described it, the Limberlost swamp had its head “in what is now Noble and DeKalb Counties, its body in Allen and Wells [Counties] and its feet in southern Adams and northern Jay [Counties]; its extent about one hundred miles in length and its width averaging twenty-five.” The Limberlost had a reputation as a “treacherous swamp and quagmire, filled with every plant, animal and human danger known—in the worst of such locations in the central states.” The swamp received its name from the fate of Limber Jim Corbus, who went hunting in the swamp and became lost for some time. When local residents asked where Jim Corbus had gone, the familiar answer was “Limber’s lost!” The swamp was where Stratton-Porter began to photograph birds and animals in their natural habitat. She sent her photographs, with no explanation, to Recreation magazine. Impressed by her efforts, the periodical asked her to write a camera department and paid her with new photographic equipment. A year later, Outing magazine hired her to do similar work.

Encouraged by these accomplishments, Stratton-Porter turned to writing fiction. Her first novel, The Song of the Cardinal, illustrated with photographs by the author, met with modest success, but her next book, Freckles, established her tremendous popularity with the reading public selling more than 670,000 copies in ten years. Although her sentimental style won favor with the reading public, Stratton-Porter’s work never received much critical acclaim, a fact that puzzled her. Why, she asked, the “life history of the sins and shortcomings of a man should constitute a book of realism, and the life history of a just and incorruptible man should constitute a book of idealism. Is not a moral man as real as an immoral one?”

In 1913, with the Limberlost swamp drained and cleared for farming and commercial ventures, Stratton-Porter and her family moved to northern Indiana, where she built a new home—The Cabin in Wildflower Woods—on the shores of Sylvan Lake at Rome City. She was attracted to the lakefront site by a wood duck she spied near the shore and an acre of blue-eyed grass on the property. “I bought the wood duck and the blue-eyed grass, with a wealth of tall hardwood trees for good measure,” she said. Stratton-Porter took a personal interest in the construction of her new home, noting that she was on the job “from the drawing of the line for the back steps between the twin oaks to the last stroke of polish that finished the floors.” The Hoosier author also worked with Frank Wallace, a tree surgeon and later Indiana State Entomologist, to improve the 150-acre property.

Just seven years after her move to Rome City, Stratton-Porter relocated to California where she took on writing a monthly column for McCall’s magazine, which first appeared in January 1922. In addition to her writing, she also organized her own movie company and based a number of her films on her best-selling books. “As a motion picture producer,” Stratton-Porter told her McCall’s readers, “I shall continue to present idealized pictures of life, pictures of men and women who inspire charity, honor, devotion to God and to family.”

At the age of sixty-one, Stratton-Porter was killed in an automobile accident just a few blocks from her Los Angeles home. She was buried in Hollywood Cemetery in California. For many years, her last wish went unfulfilled. It was: “When I am gone, I hope my family will bury me out in the open, and plant a tree on my grave; I do not want a monument. A refuge for a bird nest is all the marker I want.” In May 1999 Stratton-Porter’s last wish came true as her remains, and those of her daughter Jeannette, were interred at her home on Sylvan Lake near Rome City.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

A Heartbeat Away: Thomas Marshall and Woodrow Wilson’s Illness

J. Fred Essary, the Washington correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, found himself confronted with a delicate assignment in the fall of 1919. Stricken by a massive stroke, President Woodrow Wilson lay deathly ill in the White House. Concerned about the president’s medical condition, doctors and those close to Wilson decided that someone outside of government should inform the vice president about Wilson’s sickness.

Quietly making his way to the vice president’s office, Essary told him that the president might die at any moment. The stunned politician sat at his desk, his head down, staring at his hands. The reporter waited a long time for a reply, received none, and left, noticing that the vice president never once looked up.

Years after the meeting, Essary, on a visit to Indiana, saw the vice president, Thomas R. Marshall, who apologized for the incident. “I did not even have the courtesy to thank you for coming over and telling me. It was the first great shock of my life,” Marshall said.

The clandestine meeting between Marshall and the reporter was one of many bizarre incidents transpiring as a result of Wilson’s stroke. Although he stood just a heartbeat away from the presidency, Marshall, the former Indiana governor best known for his quip about cigar prices and the state of the country, never had the opportunity to see for himself just how incapacitated Wilson had become. Although Marshall tried to visit the president, Wilson’s wife, Edith, blocked all access to the stricken president. As the administration floundered, Marshall faced a difficult choice. Should he do nothing and chance that the national government would grind to a halt, or should he take firmer measures and chance being branded a usurper?

Marshall, the witty, down-to-earth Hoosier politician, and Wilson, the professorial minister’s son, never enjoyed a close relationship. The two men were thrown together not by any shared philosophy, but by political expediency. Forced to take Marshall on as his running mate to win enough delegates to achieve the Democratic presidential nomination in 1912, Wilson showed his low regard for the former Hoosier governor by calling him “a very small calibre man.” With the split in the Republican Party between incumbent President William Howard Taft and the third-party Bull Moose effort of former President Theodore Roosevelt, the Wilson/Marshall team narrowly captured the election.

Upon assuming his limited duties as vice president, chiefly serving as the presiding officer for the U.S. Senate, Marshall discovered that Wilson’s dim view of his running mate carried over from the convention to the new administration. “I soon ascertained,” Marshall wrote in his autobiography, “that I was of no importance to the administration beyond the duty of being loyal to it and ready, at any time, to act as a sort of pinch hitter; that is, when everybody else on the team had failed, I was to be given a chance.”

Marshall attempted to ease his troubles by unleashing his well-known sense of humor. When taking up his duties as the Senate’s presiding officer, for example, he asked for a new chair, since his feet failed to touch the floor when he sat in the old one (the vice president was not a tall man). He even went as far as to attribute his presence in office to an “ignorant electorate.”

The Hoosier vice president was held in such little regard by those inside the Wilson administration that there was even a movement afoot at the 1916 Democratic convention in Saint Louis to dump Marshall from the ticket, perhaps replacing him with Secretary of Agriculture David Houston or Secretary of War Newton D. Baker. Wilson, however, came to Marshall’s defense, noting the vice president “has given me every reason to admire and trust him.” With the president’s support, Marshall hung on to his job, and won a second term in a close race against the Republican ticket of Charles Evans Hughes and Charles W. Fairbanks (also from Indiana).

Marshall’s early difficulties in office were nothing compared to the trials he faced following the war’s end. When Wilson decided to leave the country and join the negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles in Paris (a decision he did not share with his vice president), he called upon Marshall to preside over cabinet meetings during his absence—becoming the first vice president ever to have such an honor. Although he attended only a few meetings, Marshall injected some levity into the usually staid surroundings. Once when Secretary of Commerce William C. Redfield read a letter to other cabinet members from a man complaining about bristle supplies, Marshall interrupted the secretary to offer an answer: “Tell him to shave and get his own raw material.”

A sterner test for Marshall was yet to come. Faced with opposition by Republican senators in his support for the League of Nations, Wilson embarked on a speaking tour in the late summer of 1919 hoping to rally public opinion to his cause. Before he could finish the tour, however, Wilson, whose health had never been good, collapsed, telling his personal physician Rear Admiral Cary T. Grayson that he seemed “to have gone to pieces.” Grayson informed the press that the president had “suffered a complete nervous breakdown” and it was necessary for Wilson to return as soon as possible to the White House. The president agreed to cancel the rest of the tour and he and his party returned to Washington, D.C.

On October 2, 1919, Wilson suffered a massive stroke that paralyzed his left side and left him an invalid both physically and mentally. Grayson, who had been called to the White House upon Edith Wilson’s orders, issued a terse statement to the press that the president “had a fairly good night, but his condition is not at all good this morning.” A second bulletin informed the nation: “The President is a very sick man. His condition is less favorable today and he has remained in bed throughout the day. After consultation with Dr. F. X. Dercum of Philadelphia, Drs. Sterling Ruffin and E. R. Stitt of Washington, in which all agreed as to his condition, it was determined that absolute rest is essential for some time.”

Taking the doctor’s advice, Edith began what she termed her stewardship, studying every paper sent to the president and trying “to digest and present in tabloid form the things that, despite my vigilance, had to go to the President.” Although she claimed that she never made a decision on how a question or issue should be decided, Edith did, as she admitted, have the critical task of deciding “what was important and what was not, and the very important decision of when to present matters to my husband.” Despite her best efforts, the wheels of government soon ground to a halt. She steadfastly refused to allow policy questions to upset her husband’s recovery.

As time went on and Wilson struggled to regain his health, Marshall became deluged with advice from all sides. Foreign governments began sending him official papers, prisoners in federal facilities sent pardon requests to him, and job hunters besieged his office. Some Republican senators even hinted that Marshall would have their support if he decided to assume the presidency. Troubled and needing more information about Wilson’s true condition, Marshall went to the White House in an attempt to see the president. He never had a chance; Edith zealously guarded her husband from any unwanted callers. Marshall did not see the president again until the inaugurations of Wilson’s successor, Republican Warren Harding.

Mark Thistlethwaite, Marshall’s private secretary attempted to convince the vice president that he had to consider the distinct possibility that he would be called upon to take over for Wilson—a situation Marshall was reluctant to talk about. Pressing his boss about the matter, Thistlethwaite asked Marshall if he might assume the presidency if Congress decided Wilson was unable to continue? “No,” Marshall said. “It would not be legal until the President signed it, or until it had a two-thirds vote, and a two-thirds vote is impossible.” Marshall, according to Thomas, decided that the only way he would take over for Wilson was if Congress passed a resolution to that effect and Edith Wilson and Grayson approved it in writing. “I am not going to seize the place and then have Wilson—recovered—come around and say ‘get off, you usurper,’” Marshall told Thistlethwaite. Marshall later confided to his wife: “I could throw this country into civil war, but I won’t.”

Marshall never had the opportunity to find out how he would have reacted as president. Despite his infirmities, Wilson continued in office. Unwilling to accept any compromises with his beloved League of Nations, the president saw his dreams crushed as the Senate could not muster a majority either for the treaty with or without amendments. Wilson hoped he might be nominated for a third term, but Democrats instead turned to James M. Cox, governor of Ohio, as their party’s presidential nominee. Cox went down to defeat in the 1920 election against Republican candidate Harding and his running mate, Calvin Coolidge. For his part, Marshall was only too glad to become a private citizen again. He telegraphed his eventual successor, Coolidge, after the Massachusetts governor received the GOP vice presidential nomination, “Please accept my sincere sympathy.”

The vice president’s dilemma on whether or not he should take over for Wilson spurred some discussion on the question of presidential succession, but a constitutional answer did not come until 1967 with the ratification of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Under the amendment, sponsored by U.S. Senator Birch Bayh, an Indiana Democrat, if a president could not fulfill his office’s duties, he could certify his disability and have the vice president take over. In a situation where the president could not or would not ask his second in command to take over, the amendment provides that the vice president could take over with the Cabinet’s consent.

Even with the procedures outlined in the Twenty-Fifth amendment, confusion still reigns when disaster strikes. On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. As the injured Reagan underwent surgery, and Vice President George Bush hurried back to Washington from a speech in Texas, the question remained: who was in charge? Attempting to calm the country, Secretary of State Alexander Haig made his infamous “I am in control here” remark, which only proved, as Marshall could have told them, that in times of national crisis the only certainty is uncertainty.

Friday, March 8, 2019

A Letter from Paris: Janet Flanner and The New Yorker


As a young girl growing up as part of one of Indianapolis’s leading families, Janet Flanner had a path in life already set for her by her mother, Mary, who wanted her daughter to be what she strived to be—an actress. Janet balked at her mother’s plans, pointing to her prominent nose as a barrier to any career on the stage. “I pointed out that with this nose I’d be playing Juliet’s nurse or Juliet’s nurse’s nurse, and never Juliet,” she later told a reporter from the International Herald Tribune. Instead of a life in the theater, Janet aspired to a different artistic endeavor, that of a writer.

Flanner achieved her ambition, becoming one of the stalwarts of one of America’s finest magazines, TheNew Yorker. From 1925 until her retirement in 1975, she produced—under the pen name Genêt—hundreds of thousands of words as the magazine’s Paris correspondent. In her “Letter from Paris” she sketched profiles for her readers of such notable figures as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Jean Cocteau, Albert Camus, and Charles de Gaulle. Her later editor at The New Yorker, William Shawn, described Flanner as “a poet among journalists.” Flanner, who died at the age of eighty-six in 1978, said of her long career: “I love writing. I’m just nuts on writing. Just give me an inkpot and a paper and a pen, and away I go.”

Born on March 13, 1892, Flanner was the second child of Mary Hockett and Francis Flanner, one of the founders of Indianapolis’s Flanner and Buchanan Mortuaries and a leader in the community regarding business and philanthropic ventures. Although at first educated in public schools, Janet later attended Tudor Hall School for Girls, a private college preparatory institution. After graduation, she spent time with her family visiting Germany.

Financial pressures and personal problems drove Francis to commit suicide in 1912. After her father’s death, Janet attended the University of Chicago, taking several writing classes. “I went there two years,” she noted. “I was requested to leave. Lawless. They [university officials] did object to my coming in so often at 3 a.m. I was mad on dancing.” After leaving the university, she worked for nine months at a reform school in Philadelphia.

In 1916 Flanner returned to her hometown to work on the Indianapolis Star. Under the tutelage of the newspaper’s drama critic, Frank Tarkington Baker, she broke ground as one of the country’s first movie critics. “It was an intelligent decision for Frank Tarkington Baker to treat movies, though newcomers, as important,” Flanner later told Star reporter Lawrence “Bo” Connor. Baker assigned her to review the first movie for the paper—Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid. She wrote three-quarters of a column on the film and was later delighted when her review was used to promote the movie, a common practice today. Flanner also turned her writing skills to covering numerous burlesque shows, but was not allowed to stay by management for the program’s second act. “That’s where you saw the Jewish and Irish comedians,” Flanner recalled. “Behind the chorus girls. That’s really the kind of theater I took to innately, much to my mother’s shock.”

Flanner left Indianapolis shortly after her marriage to William Rehm, a New York City artist she had known at the University of Chicago. The marriage lasted only a few years, however, and Flanner later met Solita Solano, drama editor for the New York Tribune, in Greenwich Village. The two women became partners, staying together for approximately fifty years. While in New York Flanner tried to produce freelance articles for magazines and met and became friends with the writers and critics that made up the Algonquin Round Table. One of them was Jane Grant, a strong feminist and the wife of Harold Ross, later one of the founders of the sophisticated weekly magazine The New Yorker. When Solano went to Greece for an assignment in 1921, Flanner traveled with her and the two eventually settled in Paris. She quickly made connections with the expatriate literary community of the Left Bank that included such figures as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein.

Flanner’s fascinating life with the members of the Lost Generation and the culture and people of France were regular features of letters she wrote to Grant. Impressed by her friend’s writing, Grant urged Ross to include them as a regular department in his struggling magazine. He agreed; Flanner’s first “Letter from Paris” appeared in The New Yorker’s October 10, 1925 issue.

For her work, Flanner received, at first, $35 a column, a “great sum,” she noted, at that time. Ross helped to shape the style of Flanner’s writing, cautioning her: “I’m not paying you to tell me what you think. I want to know what the French are thinking.” Every two weeks, Flanner produced 2,500 words of copy in a conversational style about significant happenings in French politics and culture under the pseudonym Genêt, a name selected by Ross that puzzled Flanner for years. “I looked up the French meanings and found three, none of which mattered,” she said. “Ross never told me what it meant. Frankly, I think he thought it was a nice French way of spelling Janet.”

Living most of the time in a room at the Hotel Continental on the Rue Castigilione, Flanner took her writing seriously, often preparing by reading eight different newspapers a day and pounding out her copy on an small Olivetti typewriter. “I work with a conscientious kind of discipline,” she said. “I work like a beaver, I go over each Letter for clarification, for mining, for a spot of gold.” Flanner noted she reviewed her work again and again, going over a sentence several times. “I nag it, gnaw it, pat and flatter it,” she said. Flanner became a familiar sight on Parisian streets in her tailored suits, bobbed gray hair, and monocle. “I look rather like an 18th century judge off the bench,” she observed.

Driven from Paris by the Nazi invasion during World War II, Flanner returned to the United States, living in New York. She returned to Paris in 1944, following the advancing U.S. Army as it liberated France. In addition to continuing to produce her “Letter from Paris,” she also did several weekly fifteen-minute radio broadcasts for the NBC Blue Network. The work took its toll on Flanner. “I was down to 99 pounds after those 11 months,” she noted, but added that she “liked every minute of it.”

Before her death on November 17, 1978, Flanner received numerous honors for her work. In 1948 the French government made her a knight of the Légion d’honneur. She also received an honorary doctorate by Smith College and in 1966 won a National Book Award for her work Paris Journal: 1944–1965. Asked by a reporter late in her life how she accomplished all she had done through the years, Flanner noted that she was not “one of those journalists with a staff. I don’t even have a secretary. I act as a sponge. I soak it up and squeeze it out in ink every two weeks.”


The Woman in the Hat: Mattie Coney and Citizens Forum


Since leaving office at the end of his second term, former president Dwight D. Eisenhower had been living in retirement at a farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Although busy in 1967 with the publication of his final book, At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends, Eisenhower took the time to write a personal letter to a former Indianapolis schoolteacher, Mattie Coney. From a number of sources, Eisenhower wrote Coney, he had learned of an effort in the Hoosier capitol to clean and better the community’s neighborhoods. “Not only have I been impressed by our common sense philosophy,” he wrote, “but even more by the patriotism, energy, and organizing ability that are so evident in the record you have made.”

Eisenhower was one of many, among them Lady Bird Johnson and Gerald Ford, to lavish accolades on the efforts of Coney and the grassroots organization she helped create: Citizens Forum. Working with her husband, Elmo, and numerous Indianapolis residents and civic leaders, Coney attempted through her “Better Neighbor” program to encourage good citizenship, individual responsibility, and self improvement in inner-city neighborhoods.

From its inception in 1964 to its disbanding twenty years later, Citizens Forum, a racially integrated institution, organized thousands of block clubs throughout the city that embarked on such projects as the “De-RAT-ification” campaign to rid the city of rodents; the “Dogwood Tree” program to plant trees; the “Visit Your Neighbor Month”; a city-wide beautification program to remove trash from streets and yards; and a “Helping Hand” program, inaugurated in 1973 to provide children with safe havens on their way to and from school. Impressed with the group’s results, other cities—Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York, and Washington, D.C.—began similar efforts.

The driving force behind the successful neighborhood improvement association was Coney, known throughout central Indiana and the country for her stylish headgear, blunt opinions, and no-nonsense philosophies known as “Mattieisms.” Her outspokenness on the need for African Americans to “quit feeling sorry of ourselves and take advantage of our opportunities” and her belief that “slums are made by people, not by plaster or bricks,” often put her at odds with both white and black leaders struggling to achieve equal rights for African American citizens during the 1960s, who viewed her as a willing tool of the establishment seeking to place the blame for poverty and racism on blacks themselves instead of on unfair laws.

Coney, who died in 1988, utilized a different approach than those used by such nationally prominent civil rights proponents as the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. or more radical groups such as the Black Panthers. “I never believed in the need for marching, cussing, fussing and breaking up stuff,” said Coney. She acknowledged that not everyone agreed with her methods. “Many Negroes don’t like what I’m saying,” she said, noting that some went as far as to call her Aunt Jemima. “They think I’m blaming them. I’m not. I’m talking about all people, and if they happen to live in filth, then they ought to clean it up. I just tell the truth.” To Coney, a registered Republican, those who criticized her, white and black alike, did so because they liked to “talk about what’s wrong, not what’s right and how to make it better.”

Born in Gallatin, Tennessee, on May 30, 1909, Coney was an only child. When she was six weeks old, her family moved to Indianapolis, where her mother and father eventually divorced. Her mother, Delia, a cook, later married Oscar Weathers. The family lived in a two-story house west of Indiana Avenue. At an early age, Coney learned from her family the importance of hard work and self-reliance. “Our family always believed in the free enterprise system,” she said, noting that one uncle owned a milk business, two operated stands in the city market, one ran a successful barbershop, and another had the largest hot tamale business in town.

After graduating from Shortridge High School in 1927, Coney put herself through a two-year teachers training course at Butler University by delivering newspapers and working at the L.S. Ayres and Company’s Tea Room. Embarking on a teaching career that would span more than thirty years, her first assignment was a class of fifty-five supposed incorrigible children that she soon turned into a group of model students with her own brand of education. Throughout her days with the Indianapolis public schools, she stressed solutions to the everyday practical problems facing her students. Students thrived in the atmosphere Coney created because “she expected you to live up to your potential,” said Pat Browne, a former pupil who went on to become a teacher herself. “When you got out of her class, you knew you were one of the best. You stood a little taller.”

Coney’s quest for perfection continued to drive her when she became involved with the creation of Citizens Forum. The inner-city neighborhood group evolved from a July 9, 1964, meeting held to discuss an open-housing ordinance being considered by the Indianapolis City Council. The ordinance prohibited real-estate agents from refusing to show homes or negotiate sales or rentals based on a person’s race, creed, color, or national origin.

According to Coney, two city councilmen stopped by her home one evening to lament that realtors were using the alleged poor conditions of black neighborhoods as a wedge against the ordinance. Coney helped organize a citywide meeting of prominent black and white citizens, held at the Fall Creek Young Men’s Christian Association. “It was my hope,” she said of the meeting, “that we could talk among ourselves and work some of these problems out. It seemed to me that if I were a good citizen there shouldn’t be any reason because of my color, which I didn’t have anything to do with, that I couldn’t move to a neighborhood that was more comfortable.”

Working with her husband, Coney started efforts to improve area neighborhoods by organizing block clubs. By first educating block-club workers on how to become good citizens, Coney reasoned, they could, in turn, pass on those lessons through meetings at their homes. Members also kept an eye out on their areas, reporting health hazards and possible code violations to the proper city department, as well as welcoming new residents to the neighborhood.

In 1966 the 500 block clubs organized under the Citizens Forum banner gathered approximately 40,000 tons of trash from Indianapolis homes, streets, and yards. The next year, the amount of refuse grew to 180,000 tons removed during a twenty-eight-day period. What made the program successful, according to Coney, who retired from teaching to devote herself full-time as Citizens Forum executive secretary, was its simplicity—“anybody can clean up their homes and be good citizens,” she said.

A flood of improvement projects poured from the Citizens Forums’ office. A “Go One Step Farther” campaign urged residents to sweep a foot beyond the curb to help prevent drainage problems; a “De-RAT-ificiation” effort worked to eliminate places where rats bred, nested, and ate; and a “Bloom-In” program encouraged those who had surplus seeds and flowers to donate them for redistribution. The group also served as a liaison between local residents and various agencies of city government. These efforts garnered for the organization, and for Coney, numerous state and national honors, including a Recognition Award from the Keep America Beautiful program. Other cities copied the group’s programs, something Coney called “the sincerest form of flattery.”

After years of dedicated service to the Citizens Forum cause, the Coneys, faced with ill health, both retired from the organization in the early 1980s. Without the Coneys’ leadership, and plagued by financial problems, the group disbanded in 1984. Ironically, the organization’s success may have helped speed its demise. As city government began to take on some aspects of Citizens Forum programs—heavy trash pickup and neighborhood beautification, for example—grants and contributions began to wane.

Mattie Coney’s legacy of self-help and improvement, however, remains intact. As she said when she was asked about her work when she and her husband were presented keys to the city in 1983, her greatest accomplishment came in “getting people to realize you have to do something for yourself. The Declaration of Independence promises the pursuit of happiness. You got to work for it.”



Monday, February 4, 2019

Dan Quayle and Indiana's Favorite Sons

Indiana has been lucky when it comes to producing men to fill the United State's second-highest office, earning a distinction as the "Mother of Vice Presidents." Six men from the Hoosier State have been elected vice president: Schuyler Colfax in 1868, Thomas A. Hendricks in 1884, Charles W. Fairbanks in 1904, Thomas R. Marshall in 1912 and 1916, J. Danforth Quayle in 1988, and Michael Pence in 2016.

When it comes to luck after being elected, however, Hoosier vice presidents have not been very fortunate. Some of the missteps experienced by these politicos include Colfax's implication in the Credit Mobilier scandal during President Ulysses S. Grant's first term; Hendricks's dying just eight months after being sworn into office; teetotaler Fairbanks's embarrassment over the infamous "cocktail affair" at his Indianapolis home; and Marshall's anxious uncertainty about his role after a stroke incapacitated President Woodrow Wilson. Indiana's vice presidents might agree with Texas congressman John Nance "Cactus Jack" Garner's description of the office as not being "worth a bucket of warm spit."

But perhaps no vice president from the nineteenth state has endured more pressure than Quayle, the surprise choice of George H. W. Bush as his GOP running mate in the 1988 presidential contest with Democrat Michael Dukakis. From the first questions about his service in the Indiana National Guard during the Vietnam War to his unfortunate misspelling of the word "potato" during the Bush/Quayle reelection effort, Quayle was under intense (some said brutal) examination by the nation's media. Richard Fenno Jr., who studied Quayle's Senate career, told the Washington Post when it produced a series of articles on the vice president that if "one wanted to prescribe a sitting-duck target for the community of political reporters who were rushing to judgment, one could hardly have improved upon J. Danforth Quayle. I believe there was a cultural--almost a tribal--element in their [the media's] early reception and treatment of him."

Born in Indianapolis on February 4, 1947, Quayle and his family moved to Huntington a year later, living in a house at 1317 Polk Street while his father, James, worked as the business manager for the Huntington Herald-Press. When he was eight years old, the young Quayle moved with his family too Phoenix, Arizona, where James worked as public relations and personnel director for the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette. In 1963, when Quayle's father purchased the Huntington Herald-Press from Eugene Pulliam, the Quayles returned to Huntington.

After graduating from Huntington High School, where he was a member of the gold team and wrote for the high school newspaper, The Whisper, Quayle attended DePauw University. It was at the Greencastle university that Quayle had the opportunity to meet a political idol, Ronald Reagan, at a dinner at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Graduating from DePauw in 1969 with a bachelor of arts degree in political science, Quayle joined the Indiana National Guard, serving there through 1975. Despite a less than stellar academic record while at DePauw, Quayle was able to gain entrance into the Indiana University at Indianapolis Law School. It was in law school that he met Marilyn Tucker; they married on November 18, 1972, and received their law degrees two years later. They moved to Huntington in 1975. Marilyn ran the couple's law office and Dan worked as associate publisher at the Herald-Press.

Quayle's successful Indiana political career got its start in 1976, when Allen County Republican Party Chairman Orvas Beers and Fort Wayne News Sentinel editor Ernie Williams asked him to run against incumbent congressman J. Edward Roush, who had been in office for sixteen years. Running an aggressive campaign, Quayle upset the popular Roush by 19,401 votes. Reelected to Congress with 64.4 percent of the vote in 1978, Quayle set his sights on a higher political office: U.S. senator. In the 1980 election, he took on Democrat Birch Bayh, who had been in office since defeating Homer Capehart in 1962. Quayle was once again victorious over a longtime Democratic incumbent, capturing 53.8 percent of the vote to Bayh's 46.2 percent.

As a senator, Quayle cosponsored the Job Training Partnership Act  with Democratic senator Ted Kennedy. Quayle's name would not be known nationally, however, until Bush picked him as his running mate at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans.

To the citizens of Huntington,  association with the country's forty-fourth vice president has always been something to boast about, including the creation of the Dan Quayle Center and Museum in 1993 (today the Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center). It is no surprise that the community in which Quayle was raised never enjoyed cordial relations with the national media. After Quayle received the GOP's nod as its vice presidential candidate, he traveled to Huntington on August 19, 1988, for a rally on the south lawn of the Huntington County Courthouse.

The several thousand people who cheered the hometown boy who made good did not offer the same greeting to the national media that grilled Quayle about his service in the Indiana National Guard during the Vietnam War and the means by which he gained a place with a Guard unit. Questions asked at a press conference following the rally, which was broadcast to the crowd over a public-address system, drew chants of "Boring, Boring" from the partisan crowd. The event, according to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and David S. Broder, "became one of the ugliest confrontations in the annals of press and politics." Recalling the turmoil, Quayle noted: "There was almost a feeling of hate out there."

Quayle, however, was not the first Indiana vice president to receive hostile attention. It seems that making sport of Hoosier politicians, trapped in an office called "about as useful as a cow's fifth teat" by Harry Truman, has been a time-honored tradition among political pundits.

In discussing Colfax in a letter to his wife, GOP insider Carl Schurz described the abilities of the Speaker of the House as "not distinguished but . . . just sufficient to make him acceptable to the masses. They are fond of happy mediocrity." Humorist Finley Peter Dunne warned President Theodore Roosevelt, contemplating a journey on a new navy submarine, that he "really shouldn't do it, unless you take Fairbanks with you." A Boston newspaper described Hendricks as a "politician of the shilly-shallying order." And one of Indiana's own, Marshall, proclaimed that the state "has perhaps no towering mountain peaks, but it has surely furnished as many first-grade second-class men in every department of life as any state in the Union."

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Mark Ferree: Newspaper Executive


As a longtime executive with Scripps-Howard Newspapers, Mark Ferree always believed in the vitality of the industry he spent his life supporting. “No other profession offers the opportunity this one des to those willing to apply themselves,” Ferree said in 1960 when he was elected to serve as the new president for the American Newspaper Publishers Association. Ferree went one step further, however, calling newspapers “basic to our whole way of life. We should never be afraid of anything.”

Credit: Indiana University Archives
Ferree supported his words with action just a year later when on May 9, 1961, he and seven other American newspaper executives from such institutions as the New York Times, Dallas Times-Herald, and the American Society of Newspaper Editors, met with President John F. Kennedy to discuss the importance of national security in regards to news coverage regarding the failed Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba. It was a conversation the president had begun weeks earlier in a speech before an ANPA meeting in New York. In spite of pressure from Kennedy, the news executives stood their ground on freedom of the press. “The conference in the President’s office was a total failure,” noted Pierre Salinger, White House press secretary. “Although JFK produced a number of recent news dispatches that clearly violated national security, the news executives told him bluntly that they would accept no new security restrictions—voluntary or official—in the absence of a declaration of national emergency.”

Even before the meeting, Ferree had staunchly opposed the threats to established press freedoms. Although after Kennedy’s ANPA speech Ferree had indicated that when national security was involved, publishers would respond to a patriotic appeal from a president, he went on to say that if it involved censorship, “the only censorship workable or acceptable to newspapers of this country would have to be voluntary censorship along the lines worked so successfully by newspapermen themselves in the last war [World War II].”

Ferree’s high regard for his chosen profession came naturally. Born in Marion, Indiana, on January 19, 1905, Ferree got his start on newspapers as a delivery boy for the Richmond Palladium-Item. His older sister was married to the publisher of that newspaper, Ed Harris, whom Ferree described as “a wonderful person, a good newspaper man and gave me my liking for newspaper work.” During high school he worked as a reporter and editorial writer at the Marion Chronicle. He also had fond memories of carrying buckets of water at fifty cents a day to a Curtis Jenny biplane giving sightseeing flights at a cow pasture north of town. Sometimes he had to use the water to not only cool the aircraft’s engine, but to also wash down the passenger seat after someone had lost their breakfast after a thrilling aerial ride. Ferree continued to write while he was a student at Indiana University, covering the downtown beat for the Indiana Daily Student newspaper.

When he left the university in 1925, however, Ferree did not find work at a newspaper. Instead, he took a job as a sales trainee with the Dashiell Motor Company selling Dodge automobiles in Chicago, where he had worked during summer vacations, before finally returning to journalism as telegraph editor on the Evansville Courier. While working on the Courier, he received a telephone call from Olin W. Kennedy, editor of the Miami Herald. “He offered me $65 a week,” said Ferree. “I was making $35 and couldn’t believe my luck.” In 1930 he married Ruth Gauntt Welborn of Evansville, Indiana; the couple had one son, Evan.

Over the next few years Ferree worked as the head of advertising and publicity for the Southern Pine Association before returning to journalism in 1932, selling advertising on commission for the Washington Daily News, a job made possible by help from fellow Hoosiers Newlson Poynter, Lowell Mellett, and Ernie Pyle. “I made so much selling to the retail lumber and home building trade they were happy to put me on salary.” He later became advertising director and business manager for the Indianapolis Times before becoming assistant general manager for all Scripps-Howard newspapers on January 1, 1945, moving to his positing as executive vice president and director of the E. W. Scripps Company, the operating company of Scripps-Howard Newspapers, in 1952.

A self-professed practical realist, Ferree refrained in his business dealings from “pontificating or offering gratuitous advice.” Instead, he preferred to give those in charge of each newspaper in the Scripps-Howard chain “freedom and complete autonomy.” He also played a key role in cutting costs by merging printing plants between Scripps-Howard and competing newspapers in such cities as San Francisco, Albuquerque, Birmingham, El Paso, Evansville, Knoxville, and Columbus. “Costs are cut, competition continues, and both papers are stronger,” he said. “Most importantly, two separate and distinct editorial voices are preserved to serve the community.”

Although the Scripps-Howard offices were at the New York Central Building at 230 Park Avenue in New York, Ferree spent between one third and one half of his time newspapers in the chain around the country. Most of the trips were made on the company’s plane, a Douglas B-23, and Ferree estimated he flew nearly 50,000 miles every year. Fellow Scripps-Howard employees described him as someone who “runs in oil,” meaning he worked smoothly and got along with everyone. “Scripps-Howard executives are not ‘ulcer men,’” he once observed. “They enjoy what they are doing, like I do, I am sure. And because of that, they get things done through hard work—not worrying.” On weekends he and his wife relaxed at their country home in Lewisboro, New York, where Ferree could be found chopping wood for walking his Labrador retrievers, Cappie and Petite.

As president of the ANPA, Ferree worked on a special committee to promote better understanding of daily newspapers. “Newspapers need to be promoted as an important part of the political, economic, social and cultural life of the United States,” he said. For years Ferree had been concerned that critics had led the public to believe that newspapers were in danger of fading away. Those critics who chop away at the roots of the newspaper tree, he noted, never recognized that they, “with all free citizens, live and work in the shade of that very tree.” Ferree warned that if newspapers, as fully independent mediums of news and opinion, faded away, “criticism would wither, not for lack of a target but for lack of its chief protector.”

Credit: Indiana University Archives
Ferree always maintained strong ties to his native state. In 1959 he was named Hoosier of the Year at the annual dinner of the Indiana Society of New York. Also that year IU awarded him its Distinguished Alumni Service Award, praising him as a “journalist, editor and distinguished administrator in the complex world of newspaper publishing.” In 1977, seven years after his retirement from Scripps-Howard, Ferree received a honorary doctorate of law degree from IU. In 1981 Ferree and his wife gave $100,000 as an endowment for journalism education at the university. The endowment now supports the Mark and Ruth (Welborn) Ferree Scholarship for undergraduate journalism majors. Mark Ferree died from a heart attack on February 13, 1982.