Eugene C. Pulliam was born 125 years ago today, in the home of a circuit-riding missionary who traveled the wind-swept plains of western Kansas in the late 19th century.
My grandfather bought and sold more than 50 newspapers across the country, eventually settling with several in Indiana and Arizona. His descendants, including my daughter Sarah Pulliam Bailey, who works for Religion News Service, have benefited greatly from his journalistic legacy.
Like an earlier generation of newspaper owners, my grandfather felt responsible for the public welfare of the communities where he owned newspapers. He wound up with considerable political influence in Indianapolis and Phoenix after World War II until his death in 1975.
Though he carried titles like publisher, company president, editor, and majority stockholder, he often told us that the highest calling in journalism was the reporter. He kept up his own reporting and commentary, traveling around the world to about 75 countries in the decade after World War II. He had been a Theodore Roosevelt progressive at a young age and never lost the reformist zeal against corruption in local and state politics.
But his trip around the world gave him a special appreciation for the freedom in America, as he saw the tragic impact of Nazism and communism in Europe and the Soviet empire. He selected 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” as the motto for his newspapers. He became a Barry Goldwater conservative as Goldwater was launching his political career in Arizona.
My grandfather’s convictions grew out of news reporting, out of old-fashioned interviews with the survivors of World War II in Europe, from observing the economic impact of socialism in England as the Labor Party dominated elections. Coming indirectly from Scripture, his convictions were a tribute to his father, the missionary, a strong evangelical Christian.
It took me several years to figure out why my grandfather was so successful. He could report and write so well. He met prime ministers and generals and common people all over the world. He interviewed or met every president from Warren G. Harding to Gerald Ford. He was quite an entrepreneur, and he could deliver inspirational speeches. I assumed he was just a very talented man, and he was.
But a special blessing came from the generation before, from the faith of his mother and father. Eugene C. Pulliam carried the Psalm 112:2 blessing—“His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed”—into a successful newspaper career.
So sometimes faithful parents have as much impact on future generations after they leave earth as they did while they were here.