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3 The Governor

Ray E. Boomhower Indiana University Press ePub

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The Governor

Politics has always played an important role in Indiana. For a century the state furnished candidates for national office for an assortment of American political parties. From 1840, when the Whig William Henry Harrison captured the White House with his “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” campaign, to 1940, when Wendell Willkie won the Republican presidential nomination and challenged incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his try for a third term in office, Hoosiers were on some party’s national ticket in approximately 60 percent of the elections. By the 1880s Indiana had become such a pivotal state in securing political success for presidential candidates that the Democratic and Republican parties did everything they could, including buying votes, to win the state’s allegiance for their candidates. Loyal party workers in the nineteenth state were proud to say they had risked going to jail in pursuit of their cause. Politics became so ingrained in the state’s character that the noted humorist and journalist George Ade once joked—playing off General William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous quote—that the first words of every Hoosier child upon birth were “If nominated I will run, if elected I will serve.”1

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Appendix: Robert F. Kennedy’s Speech in Indianapolis, April 4, 1968

Ray E. Boomhower Indiana University Press ePub

Appendix: Robert F. Kennedy’s
Speech in Indianapolis, April 4, 1968

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening, because I have some very sad news for all of you. Could you lower those signs, please? I have some very sad news for all of you, and, I think, sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world; and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort.

In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black—considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible—you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization—black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.

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1 The Responsible Reporter

Ray E. Boomhower Indiana University Press ePub

THE BODIES BEGAN COMING UP FROM DEEP WITHIN THE BOWELS of the earth days after the first explosion at the Centralia coal mine on March 25, 1947. Members of the Illinois prairie community of Centralia began hearing about how an explosive charge meant to dislodge coal had ignited the unstable coal dust permeating the air more than five hundred feet below ground at the mine south of town in Wamac. The wives of the miners whose fate was not yet known gathered at the washhouse – the place where during the workweek their husbands changed out of their grimy, coal-streaked clothes at the end of their shifts. Avoiding the rescue teams wearing their oxygen tanks and “other awkward paraphernalia of disaster,” the women gravitated toward sitting beneath their loved ones’ clothing, settling in for the long wait to learn about their men’s fate.1

Friends and relatives of the trapped men gathered outside in the cold near the mouth of the mine hoping to hear any news. One was a young Illinois college student named Bill Niepoetter, who worried about his father, Henry, and three other relatives. “One rescue worker would come up and say, ‘It’s bad, there are not going to be any survivors,’” Niepoetter said. “The next one would come up and say, ‘It’s not going to be as bad.’ We had no notion.” Helplessness set in as Niepoetter viewed rescue workers emerging from the mine without any survivors. “They’d come up and you could see from their faces that this was not going to be a good week,” he said. Those miners not killed outright by the blast were poisoned by the carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide left behind in the atmosphere. Ambulances from Centralia and nearby towns idled their engines in the cold night air in an attempt by the men inside to keep warm as they waited to be called upon to transport the deceased to the local Greyhound bus station, which officials had converted into a temporary morgue. As a shiny limousine drove away from the mine, taking with it one of the 111 men killed in the disaster, a friend of the deceased, standing with others in the crowd, remarked, “I bet it’s the only time he ever rode in a Cadillac.” Four days after the blast, Niepoetter, who had gone to his grandmother’s house, learned that his father had been one of the victims. He had already made arrangements for a funeral. “Good thing I did – they sold a lot of caskets,” he said, recalling that for several days funeral processions made their solemn way down the road leading to the cemetery.2

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9 The Return of the Native

Ray E. Boomhower Indiana University Press ePub

IN THE 1960S THE MAROTT HOTEL, LOCATED ON THE NEAR north side of Indianapolis at 2625 North Meridian Street, had faded from its original glory days of the 1920s and 1930s, when it had hosted key political and social events for the community and welcomed such famous guests as Winston Churchill, Clark Gable, and Herbert Hoover. On the evening of April 4, 1968, however, the hotel hummed once again with activity as staffers for U.S. senator Robert F. Kennedy strolled up and down its hallways. They were staying there after the end of a long first day in Kennedy’s quest to win Indiana’s Democratic presidential primary. Kennedy’s senate speechwriters Adam Walinsky and Jeff Greenfield, along with a new member of the team, John Bartlow Martin, were busy discussing the details of a foreign policy speech their candidate was slated to deliver later at Louisiana State University when they were interrupted by a secretary, who told them that civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot in Memphis, Tennessee. Later, while at dinner, they heard that King had died.1

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3 Two Cents a Word

Ray E. Boomhower Indiana University Press ePub

AT THE NORTHWEST CORNER OF RUSH STREET AND GRAND Avenue in Chicago, the 217-room Milner Hotel, part of the coast-to-coast empire of 130 units in twenty-six states owned by company founder Earle Milner, offered the tired traveling businessman and tourist basic lodging at a reasonable price – “A Room and a Bath for a Dollar-and-a-Half,” boasted the chain’s motto. It was at the Milner that John Bartlow Martin resided when he returned to Chicago from Indianapolis in the fall of 1938. In addition to the Milner’s inexpensive rates (five dollars a week on a monthly basis), its management paid the cab fare from the railroad station for guests and also provided them free laundry service. “It suited me fine,” said Martin. “I had nothing but one suitcase and a portable typewriter. I had a room with a bed and through the dirty window a view of the fire escape.”1

After escaping from his depressing Indianapolis childhood, Martin was thrilled to be in a vibrant and colorful city and delighted in its “freewheeling, go-getting” spirit. While a high school student, he had wandered with a friend though Indianapolis’s scanty slums, disappointed they were so small, while in Chicago “there were acres and acres of them, all mine.” Martin even enjoyed the noisy traffic on Outer Drive and Western Avenue, the sound of the elevated trains as they “roared by overhead on the wondrous El, reared against the sky,” and the bright lights of Randolph Street’s theater district. “There was nothing like this in Indiana,” he said. As he had while a young student at DePauw University, Martin, suddenly single, behaved foolishly for a time, sleeping most of the day, writing at night, and drinking beer while he worked. He soon discovered, however, that he could not keep up such a lifestyle and make a living, and he fell into a regular routine he followed for years to come, writing from nine in the morning to five in the evening and avoiding alcohol during those hours.2

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