|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
Elmer Davis (January 13, 1890 - May 18, 1958)
Louise (Severin) Davis presented her husband Elam Holmes Davis their son Elmer in Aurora, Indiana. Elam was a cashier at the First National Bank and his mother the principal of Aurora High School. Elmer got his first job as a printer's devil while a freshman in high school with the Aurora Bulletin. A printer's devil mixed ink and fetched type for the press workers in a newspaper.
After entering Franklin College he became editor of the school newspaper and got a job writing for the Indianapolis Star newspaper.
After graduating from Franklin he obtained a Masters Degree from Oxford. He spent some time traveling in Europe, where he met the woman that would become his wife. A native of Mount Vernon, New York Florence Macmillan had been visiting Europe when they met. They married in 1917.
Newspaperman and Novelist
He joined the New York Times as a reporter and wrote stories, novels, political and historical essays during his spare time. His published novels include The Princess Cecilia (1913), History of the New York Times (1921), and the popular novel Times Have Changed (1923).
In 1939, CBS contacted him about filling in for popular correspondent H.V. Kaltenborn, who was in Europe covering the deteriorating political situation there. Davis took the job and became an instant success. Many in the industry felt it was Davis' Hoosier accent that lent a warm, homey feeling to his broadcasts.
Office of War Information
At the beginning of the Second World War, Franklin Delano Roosevelt tapped his expertise to head the new federal Office of War Information. During his stint there he convinced Roosevelt that the government should not hide the numbers of war dead, that the American people deserved the truth about wartime developments. He also convinced Roosevelt to change the policy of not photographing the bodies of American service members on the battlefield. He wanted to impart the full impact of the contribution bequeathed by the nation's young men. Roosevelt concurred with both arguments, changing the policies.
Return to Radio and Television
After the war he took a job first with ABC radio and went on to become television broadcaster for the network. He disagreed with the activities of Communist hunter Eugene McCarthy. However, a strong anti-communist, Davis opposed McCarthy's methods. He began a nationwide campaign to advocate free thought and civil liberties.
Best Selling Book
He published a collection of his essays and speeches in 1953, But We Were Born Free, that became a best seller. He published one more book, Two Minutes Till Midnight. In 1958 he suffered a stroke, dying two months later.
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning