Louis L. Ludlow · 1980
By Alice A. Davidson
Born on June 24, 1873, in a log cabin on a Fayette County farm, seven miles from Connersville, Louis Leon Ludlow was one of eight children of Henry Louis and Isabelle (Smiley) Ludlow. Louis Ludlow attended Connersville High School, and following graduation in 1892, he was hired as a reporter for the Indianapolis Sun. He remained there until 1895, and then moved to the Indianapolis Sentinel where he stayed for another four years. In 1899 Ludlow began working as a political writer for the Indianapolis Press which eventually led him to the position of Washington correspondent on the Sentinel in 1901. His association with the Sentinel also opened the door of matrimony, and on September 17, 1896, he married Katherine Huber of Irvington, Indiana, the society editor on the Sentinel.
Ludlow continued his political reporting career as a Washington correspondent for the Indianapolis Star, the Star League of Indiana from 1903-1913, the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch and the Ohio State Journal at Columbus from 1913-29. For 28 years, Louis Ludlow served as a member of the Congressional press gallery, and then in the fall of 1928, was elected to the 71st Congress as a representative of Indiana’s Seventh District. Ludlow became the first newspaper correspondent in the United States to go from the floor of the press gallery to the floor of Congress.
Ludlow was re-elected to the 72nd Congress as representative, and continued to represent the Indianapolis district for ten consecutive terms. Due to ill health in February 1948, Ludlow gave up his seat and retired. On November 28, 1950 he died at George Washington University Hospital, following a heart attack that was too serious for his 77 years. He was survived by his wife and four children, Margery (Ms. Elmer Louis Kayser), Blanche (Mrs. Ralph Hoskins Hudson), Virginia (Mrs. John Frederick Hudson), and Louis. Ludlow was buried at Rock Creek Cemetery in Indianapolis.
During his life, Ludlow was a member of the Society of Indiana Pioneers, Phi Gamma Delta, the Democrat party, and the Methodist church. He also belonged to the Indiana Democratic Club (Indianapolis) and the National Press of Washington where he was made president in 1927.
Despite his newspaper profession and political career, Ludlow found time to write several books including his autobiography, From Cornfield to Press Gallery in 1924. This was followed by In the Heart of Hoosierland, a story of the Indiana Pioneers, in 1925. Ludlow then published a satire on certain types of politicians entitled Senator Solomon Spiffeldink in 1927. America Go Bust, 1933, was an attack on bureaucratic government spending, and Hell or Heaven, in 1937, was a treatise on Ludlow’s most passionate desire — a world at peace and as free of hate as Louis Ludlow himself.
Louis Ludlow’s successful journalistic career began when he was 19. He had grown weary of having to shuck frozen corn until his hands bled and watching hog cholera destroy his father’s finances on the farm. So, he pursued a job with the Indianapolis Sun because it was the smallest city newspaper at the time and he felt he stood a better chance of being hired by them. After working several years and saving what money he could out of a $10-a-week salary, he went to Indiana University in Bloomington to get a college degree. Ludlow was asked to join the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity almost immediately, which he did. Unfortunately, he was stricken with a severe case of typhoid fever, contracted by drinking well water, and was forced to terminate his college career.
When recovered, Ludlow returned to writing for the Sentinel as a traveling correspondent. He soon became a Washington correspondent for the Indianapolis papers, and for many years was one of the best known and most widely like journalists in Washington. During his press gallery career he served at various times as correspondent for other papers including the Evansville Courier, Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette, Terre Haute Tribune, Terre Haute Star, Muncie Star, South Bend Tribune, Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel, Denver Post, Spokane Chronicle, Savannah Press, Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, Milwaukee News, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, Ohio State Journal of Columbus, Sandusky Star-Journal, Tacoma Ledger, Tacoma News, Jacksonville (Florida) Metropolis, Tampa Tribune, and Butte Post. Ludlow was also associated with New York newspapers shortly after 1894 where he obtained an exclusive interview with Robert G. Ingersoll who was a noted agnostic.
However, he returned to Indianapolis and married the society editor of the Sentinel, Katherine Huber, who was also secretary to the publisher, Samuel E. Morss. In 1899, Gavin L. Payne, city editor of the Indianapolis Press, made Ludlow the paper’s political writer. Together they covered the Democratic National Convention at Kansas City, Missouri. At the convention, tight security was provided to insure secrecy at an important caucus of the Indianan delegation. Nevertheless, to get the story, Payne placed himself on a ledge outside the window of the Coates House where the caucus was being held. During the meeting, Payne took notes and dropped them to Ludlow below, who then raced to a telegraph station. By the time the “secret” caucus was over, every detail was in the press office at Indianapolis. Ludlow became a Washington correspondent in 1901.
After 36 years as a newspaper writer, the confidence of his colleagues in his character and ability was expressed when they elected him to the presidency of the National Press Club in 1928. During his administration, he introduced Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh to the audience in Washington Auditorium, on the return of Lindbergh from his notable air-flight to Europe. Also, the National Press Club’s new building — the largest non-government structure in Washington — was completed while he was president.
On December 27, 1939, Louis Ludlow was a guest at an appreciation dinner in his honor at the Indianapolis Press Club. Newspapermen from Indianapolis and several cities in the state were in attendance to listen to Ludlow reminisce about the earlier days of their profession. Shortly before his death, Ludlow was presented an honorary degree (LL.D.) at the 1949 commencement services of Indiana University for his outstanding service in the field of journalism. Following his death, Ludlow was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame in 1980.
As a newspaperman, Louis Ludlow considered his work a sacred trust. He viewed the press as more than a business, as a social service to help cultivate national idealism. He sought to serve, whereas other men seek self-advancement. Early in his career, the editor of the Sun presented Ludlow with a key chain and a key to the Sun office so that the young newspaperman might begin his work before regular working hours. Ludlow wore that key chain faithfully for 47 years, representing his faithfulness to his journalistic endeavors.
Aside from Ludlow’s journalistic career which spanned 36 years, his involvement in the political arena was also extensive. Louis Ludlow came from a strong background in Democrat politics. As a journalist, Ludlow was a political writer for the Indianapolis Press which spurred his personal interest in politics to a greater degree. His 28 years of press gallery experience gave him a sort of “running start” for his Congressional career. During those years, Ludlow became so disillusioned by the exposes of World War I and disgusted with the antics he observed in Congress, that he decided to run for Congress in 1928.
Ludlow chose to run in the Seventh District, and won by 6,000 votes — the same district that had given Herbert Hoover a majority of 36,000 votes. That election created national news for Ludlow and Indiana, for he was the first person to move from the press gallery to the Congress.
A philosophy that Ludlow lived by each day was: “We can do nothing better, we can do nothing finer; we can do nothing grander than to help our fellow mortals over the rough places in life.” Because of this firm belief, Ludlow continued to serve Indiana in Congress year after year, for ten consecutive terms. His dedication to the people of Indiana kept him working hard as their representative.
While in Congress, Ludlow received more mail — an average of 200 letters a day — than any one of the 435 members of the House of Representatives. With the help of four secretaries, he came up with answers for every single inquiry. He often put in 80 hours each week, working to get “priorities” for Indianapolis war factories in order to keep 40-hour workers busy on the assembly line.
Apart from handling all of his mail personally, he put in hours every day listening to hearings conducted by the House Appropriations Committee, of which he was sub-chairman on appropriations for the post office and Treasury Department. More importantly, he served as a member of the deficiency appropriations committee that met every day of the year. No other committee met as frequently.
A typical day for Ludlow began in the office at 7 o’clock, and never ended before 7 p.m. He often worked Saturdays and Sundays as well. Friends appealed to him to take a vacation, but he always said he was too busy for recreation. He never even took time off the job to do campaign hand-shaking. In 1946 when, as a patient at Washington, he was too ill to campaign, his record of 18 years loyal service was enough to give him a victory by a margin of 4,295 votes.
Ludlow’s popularity was not hard to explain. Speaking before the Congress in 1939 on “Why I am a Jeffersonian Democrat,” he explained, “In my estimation, Jefferson was the greatest humanitarian since Jesus of Nazareth.” He went on to say, “The beauty of the Jeffersonian philosophy is that it fosters comradeship. It makes brothers of you and me and all of us. It teaches us that we should manifest an interest in people not for the purpose of exploiting them, but to assist them to higher and happier levels of living…”
Many times in Ludlow’s political career, he was considered for the senatorship but was never given the nomination. His real dream was to be elected vice president which never came about either. Nevertheless, upon his retirement from Congress on February 17, 1948, Republicans and Democrats alike paid tribute to his many years as a true public servant and he was content to step aside, realizing it would be unfair to himself and to the people of his district to try and carry the burden of his office any longer.