Did you ever hear that Indiana is kind of an odd state? Because South Bend is in the north; North Vernon is in the south; and French Lick doesn’t mean what you think it does!
And besides that, Indiana has provided six vice presidents for the United States; but not one single president. Always the bridesmaid; never the bride …
And of those six politicians, only three — Thomas R. Marshall, born in North Manchester; Dan Quayle, a native of Indianapolis; and Mike Pence, from Columbus — were actually born in the Hoosier state.
OF THE OTHER three, Schuyler Colfax was a native of New York City, and Thomas A. Hendricks and Charles W. Fairbanks both took their first breaths in Ohio.
Of course, a number of people have been born elsewhere, then moved to Indiana because they may have thought they could have a better life here. And many of them have. But still, not a single president?
We’ve never had any trouble producing a lot of people whose talents helped them to wind up in Hollywood, famous in moving pictures. Or to write novels, or music, or poetry, or other things that spread their names — and often, where they were from — around the world. Speaking of poetry, anyone remember James Whitcomb Riley, one of the finest poets in U.S. history? He was from central Indiana.
MUSIC? THINK OF Cole Porter; or Hoagy Carmichael; or quite a number of other musicians (I’d name them all, but I’d probably start to bore you.)
Movies? Think of James Baskett who played Uncle Remus in “Song of the South.” Baskett won the first Academy Award ever presented to a black actor in Hollywood history. And he was born and raised in Indianapolis.
Remember James Dean? He only lived long enough to appear in three movies, but will never be forgotten by people who love motion pictures. The same thing applies to Steve McQueen, “Mr. Cool,” who starred in a bunch of action movies, and who was born just one year before Dean. And both were from central Indiana.
AND ON THE female side, remember Irene Dunne? No, she wasn’t born in Indiana, but right across the Ohio River in Louisville, KY. But after her father’s death in 1911, her mother moved Irene and her brother to Madison, IN (my home town), and Irene went through junior high and high school here. She starred in a bunch of movies as an adult, and was nominated for the Academy Award as best leading lady five different times. She never got it, but in her elder years she received a special, career Academy Award.
A much different actress born here in Indiana was Marjorie Main. She wasn’t a beautiful woman — not even close — but she had a very unique appearance and a “Don’t you mess with me, damn you!” type personality which made her an actress you wouldn’t mistake as someone else. Especially when she was playing Ma Kettle.
You’ll recall I mentioned people being born elsewhere, then moving to Indiana later on. It wasn’t just people who did that. The game of basketball was invented in Massachusetts. But many people think it was born in Indiana. We Hoosiers are in love with our “hysteria,” and have been for many years. And, in my opinion, two of the best players of all time — Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson — are Hoosiers.
OF COURSE, Indiana always had its share of politicians — local, countywide, state, and federal — just like all the other states. I guess there just wasn’t one that wanted to pursue the presidency to victory.
During my career as a Madison Courier reporter, I got to interview the state and federal Hoosier elected officials Birch Bayh, his son, Evan Bayh, and Lee Hamilton. They were all impressive, intelligent, capable of being funny when they chose, and I think, if any of them had made a serious run at the presidency, they might well have been elected, and have proved that the U.S. waited too long to put a Hoosier in the Oval Office.
On the other hand, if luck had gone against us, we might have elected an Indiana version of Joe Biden.
Or, Herbert Hoover. Or, Franklin Pierce.
Or, (hold your nose, now): PETE BUTTIGIEG! (BAAARFFF!)