George R. Dale was editor of the Muncie Post-Democrat and later mayor of Muncie from 1930-1935. During his career he fought against the Ku Klux Klan and their control of local politics, and fought for the rights of the press. Dale's feisty, fearless personality is part of Muncie's colorful past.
Dale, a native of Indiana and the son of an attorney in Monticello, lost both parents before the age of eighteen. His first job was in a local dry goods store, but he soon moved to Hartford City to work with his uncle. While there, Dale started his first newspaper, the Hartford City Times. After a dispute with his partner, he sold his share of the paper. Shortly after, he moved to Montpelier and started another newspaper, the Montpelier Call. Using this newspaper as his instrument, Dale managed to get saloon owners to leave the town. With success in Montpelier, he returned to Hartford City to crusade against liquor and saloons. However, his paper, the Journal, failed to find a following and he sold his interest and moved to Muncie. With the support of Drs. Fred and Rollin Bunch, Dale started the Post-Democrat.
As editor of the Post-Democrat (1920-1936), Dale gained national recognition and made many local enemies by battling the Ku Klux Klan's control of city politics. During his battles with the Klan, Dale was threatened and physically attacked on several occasions. On two occasions the assaults involved gunplay. In one incident, he was shot at and the bullet went through his hat. In another incident, Dale took the gun from his assailant and shot him in the torso. This 1926 cartoon ran in the Post-Democrat. Dale faced numerous personal and legal barriers due to his paper, and hoped that the State would intervene against his enemies in support of "truth." The prone figure of Mussolini represents fascism, or the suppression of truth and free speech.
To silence the Post-Democrat, Dale was charged with criminal libel. Earlier in the year, he referred to Muncie Klan member George Roeger as a "draft dodger". Dale was found guilty of libel by a local judge, Clarence Dearth, who had been the subject of several articles by Dale prior to the trial. These articles accused Dearth of being a Klan member. Governor Ed Jackson issued a pardon, clearing Dale of the crime and he spent only two days in jail. As mayor of Muncie from 1930-1934, Dale was controversial. Within days of taking office he announced a "clean-up" program for Muncie. He fired the entire police force of 42 officers, and the fire department of 10. While mayor, Dale battled with the city council over several issues.
It was an indictment for violation of prohibition laws that proved to be Dale's biggest problem. He would be convicted in federal court for the charges, and the circuit appeals court refused to overturn his conviction. President Roosevelt eventually pardoned Dale in December, 1933.
Mayor Dale and Mayor-elect Rollin Bunch were close friends and business partners in a previous incarnation of the Post-Democrat, but later were enemies when Bunch's 1921 mayoral campaign became corrupt. Though Dale lost his reelection bid in 1934, he continued as editor of the Post-Democrat until his death in 1936.
This online exhibit is based on "The Life and Times of George Dale, Muncie Mayor and Editor" on display in Bracken Library from September 2002 through January 2003. This web page provides an overview of the exhibit with images of select items that represent the type of material on display. For further information on this and other exhibits, please contact Ball State University Archives and Special Collections at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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