Hoosier Hall of Fame: In Defense of a Few Inductees

Shelley Long? John Dillinger? Let us make the case.

This story is part of

Indianapolis Monthly’s 2016 Indiana Bicentennial coverage, which includes our list of the 200 Hoosier Hall of Fame picks, designated throughout in bold. For more on this celebration of the state’s first two centuries, click here.

For this series, we made a case for some of our Hoosier Hall of Fame inductees that might raise a few eyebrows.


In Defense of: EUGENE V. DEBSDemocratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has made socialism cool again—the key word being “again.” You might say Eugene V. Debs was Bernie Sanders before Bernie Sanders. A labor leader from Terre Haute who organized the American Railway Union (one of the nation’s first industrial unions), Debs ran for president on the Socialist Party of America ticket five times, earning 6 percent of the popular vote in 1912. Which doesn’t sound like much, unless you consider that back then, “socialist” was a dirty word in America. Maybe the strongest testament to Debs’s appeal: Prosecuted on trumped-up charges under the federal Espionage Act for speaking out against America’s entry into WWI, he ran his final presidential campaign in prison, and despite being a con still picked up a million-plus votes.


In Defense of: SHELLEY LONG
If IM were choosing Hoosier Hall of Fame inductees in 1987, Shelley Long would make it in on the first ballot. But three decades after the Fort Wayne native’s premature departure from Cheers—with only stinko movies (Outrageous Fortune? pee-eww) and minor TV roles to show for it—she’s on the bubble. But fortunately, some idle hours and Netflix recently reminded us what a white-hot star Long was when she broke out on the first season of Cheers in 1982 and earned an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. No doubt the voters saw a dynamic comedic talent with range and heart, who took some well-scripted lines and breathed them full of haughty Harvard barmaid. Diane Chambers: that smart, sensitive dilettante, girly enough to flirt and woman enough to put a bunch of liquored-up lunkheads in their place. She was the best thing Cheers—and Cheers—had going for them.


In Defense of: JOHN DILLINGERDillinger
In his day, the bank robber from Mooresville was perhaps the most captivating newsreel star of the silver screen. But one can’t blame the relatives of policeman William O’Malley—shot dead during a stickup by the Dillinger Gang—for bristling when the Depression-era desperado is celebrated. Fans of John Dillinger’s Robin Hood persona, along with some surviving family members, argue one of Dillinger’s accomplices pulled the trigger, and that Dillinger was never convicted (largely because he broke out of the Crown Point jail, supposedly with a wooden gun, before trial). Either way, his impact on law enforcement is indisputable: His string of heists revealed the inability of local and state cops to keep up, and gave FBI director J. Edgar Hoover the bogeymen he needed to beef up his crime-fighting outfit.

This story originally ran in the January 2016 issue.