Al Spiers · 1980
by Stephen Dick, Ball State University
He served concurrently as sports editor, reporter, and political writer. In 1936 Spiers became editor of the Dispatch. In 1938 the Michigan City rival papers merged, under the ownership of Nixon, and became the Michigan City News-Dispatch. Thereafter Spiers served as editor and page one columnist.
Spiers entered the Air Force in 1942 and was honorably discharged a captain in 1945.He served as a pilot and flight instructor at the Enid Army Air Force Base in Oklahoma.
Spiers held the position of editor until 1954. During the 1940s Spiers was instrumental in cleaning up crime in Michigan City. He worked closely with the police in closing down the many gambling outlets and houses of prostitution in the city. His anti-rackets crusade brought him statewide acclaim after the top Michigan City racketeer was forced out of town.
Also during this time Spiers covered many stories coming out of the Indiana State Prison. He was crusader for justice and successfully brought about re-trials or releases of inmates falsely accused. On more than one occasion the warden of the prison called on Spiers to come and listen to prisoners’ grievances. On two occasions Spiers helped thwart potential violence by negotiating with inmates. Spiers was involved with this work all of his career.
In 1954 Spiers requested and received a leave of absence as editor of the Michigan City News-Dispatch. For the next five years Spiers traveled about Indiana searching for human interest stories. According to Spiers he had been getting complaints from people about all the bad news in the paper. Spiers decided to find some stories people could relate to. He called his column “Hoosier at Large” and focused on offbeat topics. Stories about people were popular then too and Spiers wanted to write them. He called his wandering period his best time in journalism.
In 1959, his travels over, Spiers accepted the position of the first editorial director of the Nixon Newspapers (headquarters in Wabash, Indiana). He kept that position until his retirement in 1979. During his reign as editorial director Spiers managed to see some of the world. In 1964 he took a three-month journey to the Far East, sending back articles about his travels. In 1966, Spiers joined a group of journalists for an Iron Curtain tour. He visited most of the communist countries of Eastern Europe. His seat mate for the journey was Fred Seaton who had been President Eisenhower’s Secretary of the Interior.
Journalism was only one of Spiers’ loves. He is an active fisherman and a crusader for conservation. Like most good newsmen Spiers managed to combine his concern for conservation with his journalism. He wrote a column, “A Hoosier Outdoors,” which reflected many different areas of outdoor recreation in and around Michigan City.
Fishing is Spiers’ favorite pastime. He’s thrown out his line from the icy Arctic Ocean down to the warm waters of Costa Rica. Spiers’ office is lined with literature and photos about fishing. The coho salmon of Lake Michigan, right in his backyard, remain Spiers’ favorite game. He’s in his boat and on the lake from March to November, and he’s an active spokesman of game fishing in Lake Michigan.
If fishing is his foremost hobby, politics come in second. Spiers has always been active in local politics. For many years he wrote a column called “Let’s Talk Politics” where he discussed the local scene. A Republican, Spiers was campaign manager for Randall C. Miller’s successful campaign for mayor in 1963.
Spiers’ main achievement in local politics came about with the formulation of People-in-Politics. Spiers’ was president of this organization which helped train nearly 1500 local people to be active in politics in the party of their choice. In 1967 Spiers was elected as Michigan City’s GOP chairman. Spiers’ political experience goes beyond the reporting stage in many ways. Early in his career he served as Reading Clerk and Roll Clerk in the Indiana Senate.
In addition to newspaper work Spiers has published numerous articles in magazines. During the 1940s and 1950s he sold many articles about crime to such magazines as True Detective. Spiers drew on his experience as a crime reporter to write these stories. Out of the fishing trip to Costa Rica came an article for Field and Stream in 1971. Spiers took photos of the trip and it was the pictures that sold the article. Since then Spiers has taken up photography as a hobby.
Other publications in which Spiers has been published include: Saturday Evening Post, Look, Readers Digest, Saga, Bluebook, and Flying. Since he began freelancing in the 1930s, Spiers has written about 200 articles to different publications.
Since Spiers’ retirement in 1979 he has spent most of his time with his hobbies. He still, however, writes an occasional column for the Nixon Newspapers. The topics are the same: outdoors and politics. Spiers works out of an office at his home on the south side of Michigan City.
Still active in civic affairs, Spiers recently was made a member of the Michigan City Port Authority. He is a member of the Zion Lutheran Church.
He lives with his wife, Lois (Ericson), and they have three children: Susan, Richard, and Sally.
From 1933 to the present Spiers has contributed to nearly all aspects of journalism from sports writing to political reporting, from columnist to editor.
The most visible of Spiers’ achievements was the anti-rackets crusade in the 1940s. Spiers actually began the crusade in 1936 with a new column entitled “Daylight Shavings Line.” He used the column to pick away at local gamblers. Spiers notes that it was his intention to keep gambling activities in front of the public. Because of Spiers’ efforts the local underworld lord was forced to leave Michigan City. In 1947 Spiers was rewarded for his work by the local jaycees. He was named “Young Man of the Year.”