Jim Bannon · 2016

It was James L. Bannon’s ability to build relationships that made him a respected journalist and beloved community leader. While working for media and community organizations throughout the state, he left an indelible mark on the lives of many.

Bannon was opinions page editor of the Anderson Herald-Bulletin and assistant publisher and director of communications of Anderson Newspapers. He also worked at news operations in Elwood, Fort Wayne, Kokomo and New Haven, and he worked for The Associated Press wire service in Louisville. With his wife, Carolyn, he also owned two weeklies.

In any conversation about Bannon, the focus always goes to how he was a champion for good journalism and for his city. The columns he wrote in the nearly two decades before his death led his being one of the most-read journalists the Herald-Bulletin had known. His colleagues often sought his advice about how he was able to consistently attract to his columns the mover and shaker and the little guy.

Many of his columns were about his family, including his wife and children: Nancy, Barb, Jan and Tom, and brother, Dean. But they all had a message that went beyond family bonds.

Bannon also worked for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, WANE-TV Channel 15, WANE Radio, the Kokomo Tribune and The Associated Press. He spent years in Greentown working for the newspaper there, and he was involved in the civic life of the city.

His work still resonates today in the ability of the public to have access to government meetings. He was a past president of the Hoosier State Press Association and co-chair of a committee that helped write and guide the Indiana Open Door Law through the Legislature. The law mandates open meetings of government bodies.

In 1955, a few years after graduating from Anderson High School, Bannon started as a reporter at the Anderson Daily Bulletin. He soon became sports editor and, later, editor. After working at a string of other papers, he and his wife purchased the Pendleton Times and Fortville Tribune.  Finding that being an entrepreneur wasn’t fulfilling, Bannon sold the papers after he was recruited to return to work at the Anderson Daily Bulletin. He became editor there in 1980.

Five years later, he became assistant publisher and director of publications of Anderson Newspapers Inc., serving on the corporation’s board of directors as secretary.  These roles allowed him to immerse himself in Anderson civic life.  When the newspaper was sold to Ingersoll Publications of Princeton, New Jersey, he was retained as assistant publisher.  He became the first editor of the Herald-Bulletin following its merger with the Anderson Herald in 1987. (The company was purchased by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. in 2000.)

Bannon was a newsroom mentor. He always emphasized the positive role a newspaper should play in a community, said his son, Tom Bannon. He was respected by his peers. He received numerous state and national awards for his work in journalism.

While he was editor and publisher of the Howard County News in the 1970s, the paper was one of the most honored weeklies in the state, ranked among the top five for receiving awards. At the Bulletin, his office walls were lined with awards.

People called him “Mr. Anderson” because of his ability to make things happen in and out of the newsroom and because of his dedication to Anderson.

In the community, he was lauded numerous times for the decades of work he did for Anderson, including creating Anderson’s slogan, “Anderson, proud city, proud people.” He served several years on the Anderson Chamber of Commerce board of directors and was board chairman.  In this role, he worked in numerous capacities to help the city’s image and to bring in business.

He was a past president of the Anderson Rotary Club, which began admitting women during his tenure, and he served on the public relations committee of Community Hospital. He also served on boards of the Anderson Fine Arts Center and the Salvation Army.

In addition to being active with numerous other civic organizations, he was past chairman of the board of the Anderson Area Leadership Academy. He was one of the founders of the Greentown Glass Museum.

He created the name, “Mid-Indiana Conference,” for a league of Kokomo area high school athletic teams, which continued until the 2014-15 school year.

Bannon interviewed or met several presidents, including Harry S Truman, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, George H.W. Bush (when he was head of the CIA) and John F. Kennedy, said Patrick W. Sanders, a former editor of the Herald Bulletin.

He received many accolades. Among them: a bust of Bannon was placed in downtown Anderson on Jim Bannon Plaza. A brick was laid in his honor at Anderson Community Park. He was lauded as Boss of the Year and Man of the Year. He received the Chief Anderson Award for his civic work.

Through all of his work, he always found time to focus on family and friends. One of his favorite activities with family was playing Scrabble and other board games, said his son. And every Saturday, he had breakfast with friends.  He also regularly took trips to support his beloved Chicago Cubs.

After his death at age 64 on March 12, 1998, his funeral was held in a place he fought hard to have restored.  The historic Paramount Theatre in Anderson stands today in its early grandeur, yet another reflection of the man known as Mr. Anderson.

 

— by Eunice Trotter, board member

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