Tom Tuley · 2018
Tom Tuley’s life is quieter these days. There was a time when Tuley, one of Evansville’s most celebrated and recognized sports writers, spent 250 nights out of each calendar year covering an unending array of high school, college and professional athletic contests in downstate Indiana. He never seemed to be able to make time to a visit a museum, watch a ballet or enjoy a Broadway show because his night-time hours were always taken by the demands of the printed page.
Tuley has long since retired from the newspaper business and moved from Evansville to Whitestown in central Indiana to be closer to his daughter and to his grandchildren. But he does vividly recall his chaotic younger days as a reporter and editor and the excitement of his proximity to breaking news.
Tuley spent 38 years in the news business, retiring on Dec. 31, 1995, as the editor and president of The Evansville Courier newspaper, where he oversaw a company with 600 employees and a $40 million annual budget. During his nine-year tenure, Tuley helped to boost The Courier’s daily circulation to 62,500 and to maintain the newspaper’s preeminent news-gathering position in the region. He also found time to write an award-winning Sunday column.
Tuley’s newspaper career began in 1957 when he was a 17-year-old junior at Evansville Bosse High School and nabbed a job as a sports stringer at The (Evansville) Press, a Scripps-Howard newspaper. Young Tuley helped process sports scores and statistics. “I even got to write stories occasionally,” he recalled.
Tuley continued to work for The Press while attending the University of Evansville. When he graduated with a liberal arts degree in 1962, he began working for The Press full time. He stayed with the paper for 13 years and, while he did some general assignment and police reporting, he devoted most of his days to working as a sports reporter and columnist. He worked his way up to assistant sports editor before leaving in 1975 to become the executive sports editor of The Cincinnati Post, another Scripps-Howard newspaper with a daily circulation of 120,600. There, he oversaw a sports staff of 12 and continued to serve as a columnist.
In 1980, Scripps-Howard management named Tuley managing editor of The Press. In that role, he honed his management skills, wrote editorials and appeared as a Saturday columnist. By 1983, he had become the newspaper’s editor and was given the chance to oversee a six-days-a-week afternoon publication with an editorial department of 42 employees.
After leading the editorial staff of The Press for six years, Tuley left to become the editor and president of The Evansville Courier, the city’s highly regarded flagship morning newspaper, which Scripps-Howard had purchased. While at The Courier, Tuley not only supervised day-to-day editorial and administrative operations, but also oversaw the construction of The Courier’s new $26 million state-of-the-art newspaper plant, the completion of which was one of his most memorable accomplishments. He remained at The Courier until his retirement in late 1995.
Tuley was never content while in Evansville to merely oversee and record the daily happenings in “The Pocket City.” He became one of its most influential citizens and boosters, as well. Today, he looks back with pride at his pivotal role in working with others, including Evansville Mayor Frank McDonald, to save a 1920s downtown vaudeville theatre, The Victory, from demolition. He chaired the committee that raised about $4 million to preserve and successfully renovate the facility. The Victory now houses the Evansville Philharmonic orchestra and hosts a variety of performing arts programs on a regular basis. Tuley also played a leadership role in the Evansville Theatre District, Youth Leadership Evansville, the Community Foundation Alliance, the Evansville Arts and Education Council, the Evansville Blind Association, the Evansville Dance Theatre, the Evansville Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Evansville Chamber of Commerce and the Evansville YMCA. He also gave generously of his time and talents to the Hoosier State Press Association, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the National Newspaper Association.
When Tuley finally decided to call it a career in the newspaper business after 38 years, he thought he’d retire, write books and perhaps play golf. He and his wife, Barbara, were thinking at the time about relocating to Nashville, Indiana. A chance meeting with a couple from Cincinnati several states away changed the trajectory of the second half of his retirement. Here’s how he described the encounter: “We met some people … at a log home show in Tennessee. We happened to be there and were in the office looking at a sun room. Barbara struck up a conversation with this couple (Sandee and Allen Hazelbaker). We said that we were thinking of building a log home in Indiana and they said, ‘So are we!’ They said they were from Cincinnati and asked where we planned to build in Indiana. I said, ‘It’s a little place you probably never heard of called Nashville.’ They said, ‘We’re planning to build near Nashville!’”
After the chance encounter, both the Tuleys and the Hazelbakers moved to Brown County and stayed in touch, dining together often. Eventually, Tuley began taking art classes from Sandee Hazelbaker, an accomplished artist.
The rest is artistic history. Tuley began painting nearly every day with watercolors and, for years thereafter, he showed and sold his tightly rendered paintings, including townscapes, rural snow scenes and floral still lifes. He became a member/artist of the Brown County Art Gallery and was elected to serve in a number of leadership roles in the gallery’s Artist’s Association over the years.
While a Brown County resident, Tuley used his unique management and administrative skills to better the community. In 2000, he served as vice chairman and capital campaign chairman of the effort to build the Brown County Community YMCA. The capital program raised $3.8 million and the Y opened in 2003. That same year, Tuley accepted the role as capital campaign chairman to build a new St. Agnes Church in Brown County. The capital program raised $1.7 million and the construction of the church was completed in 2005. And in 2013-2014, Tuley served as president of the Nashville Arts and Entertainment Commission, which oversaw the community’s newly-created arts district and was instrumental in bringing public art to the village’s streets.
While Tuley is esteemed as a consummate newsman, a skilled artisan and a tireless civic leader, he is most proud of the accomplishments of his three children – his daughter, Tracy, an Indianapolis attorney; his son, Brent, an Austin, Texas, civil engineer; and his son, Brandon, a Cincinnati mechanical engineer. Tuley’s wife of 54 years, Barbara, died in August 2017.
Tuley says he is humbled by his selection to the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame. “I was kind of surprised by my selection,” he said recently. “I know a lot of people in the Hall of Fame, and I’m not sure I belong beside them.”
By Terry English