Wray Edwin Fleming · 1972
By Melinda Lantz
Spanning more than a half century and encompassing such fields as journalism, law, and education, the life and career of Wray Edwin Fleming was long and successful.
Born August 8, 1895, in Shelbyville, Indiana, he was the son of James M. and Sophia Fleming, both Shelbyville natives. He attended elementary and high school in Shelbyville, graduating from Shelbyville High School. He married Phoebe Bentley, a Greensburg native, September 9, 1922.
His career began in Shelbyville as editor of the Shelbyville Democrat in 1916. He worked as head of its staff until 1931 when he became editor and co-publisher of The Michigan City Evening Dispatch.
In 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Fleming collector of customs at Indianapolis. He served in this position until 1939. During this time, in 1933, he founded the Hoosier State Press Association and served as its first president until 1939.
Upon completing law school at Indiana University Law School, Indianapolis, at that time known as Benjamin Harrison Law School, he joined the Indianapolis law firm of Symmes, Fleming and Symmes. In 1939 he was appointed general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association.
From 1941 to 1944 he served as state administrator of the War Savings Fund by appointment of U.S. Secretary of Treasury Henry Morganthau. In this position he was responsible for organizing the sale of war bonds during World War II in each of Indiana’s 92 counties. Throughout this period he continued as Hoosier State Press Association general counsel.
Although he retired as general counsel of the Hoosier State Press Association in 1961, he continued to serve as a consultant to its Board of Directors and new general counsel, Richard Cardwell. He published the Indiana Publisher, the association’s monthly magazine, from 1961 to 1967.
He retired from his law practice in 1966 at age 70 but continued to work part time, despite his announcement to retire.
His career also included work as an educator. Fleming was a lecturer on newspaper law at both Indiana and Butler universities.
Fleming died July 11, 1969, as the result of complications following surgery for a brain tumor. At the time of his death he was the senior surviving partner in the law firm Symmes, Fleming, Ober & Symmes.
He established the William J. Fleming Pharmacy Memorial Fund at Butler University in memory of his son, a cancer researcher at Eli Lilly, who died in 1963.
Fleming was the father of two other children, another son, Robert, a cryogenics engineer with General Electric Corporation in Schenectady, New York, and a daughter Nancy, now Mrs. John Hope of Houston.
Known to many as "Mr. H.S.P.A.," perhaps the most significant contribution Wray Fleming made to the field of journalism was the founding of the Hoosier State Press Association in 1933. One of Fleming’s theories in establishing the association was that newspapers could better serve the public if they were better informed themselves. The association published a book, Handbook on Newspaper Law, used in many Indiana high schools and colleges as a reference tool and text book. The book was a guide for newspapers to help them avoid legal battles.
Fleming unofficially represented Indiana newspapers during the 1933 session of the Indiana State Legislature. After the 1933 session, he advocated forming a business organization of newspapers and was instrumental in getting the opinion of the Indiana Attorney General in 1933 that need for such an organization indeed existed.
Fleming has been quoted as saying that neither he nor the publishers who net with him in Indianapolis’ Claypool Hotel to discuss the possibility of the press association realized the impact it would have on Indiana newspapers. One governor of Indiana said he considered the organization to be the mouthpiece of Indiana newspapers.
Although Fleming organized the Hoosier State Press Association, he was quoted as saying he was not a good organizer. He said that problems were solved as emergencies came up and organization was only secondary to solving problems.
As legal problems of Indiana newspapers increased, and thus the work of the Hoosier State Press Association, Richard Cardwell was hired to serve as assistant general counsel of the association.
In addition to organizing the press association, Fleming also served as its first president from 1933 to 1939. During his first 12 years of service, he brought about a savings of $15 million in gross income tax payments by Indiana newspapers.
Beyond his efforts in the law-related aspects of journalism through his work in the association, Fleming was also a veteran of journalism field work, beginning his newspaper career in 1916 at the Shelbyville Democrat. He later became editor and publisher of the Michigan City Evening Dispatch.
He was publisher of the Indiana Publisher, the monthly magazine of the Hoosier State Press Association from 1961 to 1967. During his tenure as publisher he increased advertising linage and gave the publication a "personal touch" through his wide knowledge of Indiana newspaper operations.
Fleming was a member of the Indianapolis Public Relations Society and Sigma Delta Chi. He was president of the Indiana Democratic Editorial Association and was chairman of the Indiana Division of Publicity. He was a member of the Indiana Press Club
Successful as a journalist, lawyer, and educator, Wray Fleming was also a successful public servant, working on a variety of committees and commissions.
For three years he served as the state chairman of the National Infantile Paralysis Foundation for the March of Dimes and organized its Indiana campaigns.
He also served on the Indiana Traffic Safety Council, the Indiana Public Health Council, and the Indiana Civil Defense Advisory Committee. He was a member of the Indiana Tax Study Commission and the Indiana War History Commission. He held membership in the Indianapolis Bar Association and the Indiana State Bar Association.
He was a member of the Indianapolis Athletic Club and belonged to Trinity Episcopal Church.