In 1965, Wilfred C. Bussing stood at the top of Evansville’s newspaper entity commonly known as the Evansville Press. Within a few months, the newspaper mogul was retiring from his lofty position as president. After his retirement, Bussing received great praise for his monumental efforts with the Press. He was noted as an enthusiastic man who always loved to change the game and push the boundaries of newspaper publishing. Many of the farewell letters in the David L. Rice Library Archives Bussing Collection further illustrate the importance of this man’s efforts. He singlehandedly inspired a new generation of newspaper publishers that would emerge later in the 1960’s. Above all, Bussing built respect for newspaper publishing in Evansville. Bussing raised the Evansville Press to soaring heights and infused it with the current popularity it holds today as the renamed Evansville Courier and Press. In order to understand Bussing, one has to look at his rise to prominence in the 20th century.
As the early 20th century began to pick up, Wilfred C. Bussing emerged as an average high school kid that would soon accomplish the extraordinary. Bussing in his youth delivered and sold newspapers in the little Midwest hamlet known as Evansville. Riding his bicycle across town, he could not have known what his future would hold. It would be years after high school, that he would begin his quest to establish the Evansville Press as a main contender in the newspaper market. In high school, Bussing expanded his entrepreneurial enterprises by getting his feet wet in the vanilla extract business. Eventually, Bussing was supplying vanilla extract to over 60 grocery stores throughout the area. As Bussing expanded his operations out of high school, he caught the attention of the Evansville Press. The Press temporarily hired Bussing to expand their operation. Bussing started by expanding routes and hiring more paperboys in order to bring papers to more citizens in Evansville. Bussing continued to fulfill this role throughout high school until his graduation. After graduating from high school, the Press hired Bussing at about $6 an hour as an office boy. Bussing always looked for opportunities. He quickly became an advertising salesman at the Press and eventually worked his way to business manager by his thirties. Under Bussing, the Evansville Press grew exponentially, as Evansville expanded. Busing promoted the small town as a go to metropolitan shopping center. After establishing the Press as a powerful and influential institution, Bussing eventually worked his way to president of the Press. Bussing’s quick rise from simple high school boy to president of a prolific newspaper is astounding.
Throughout the years, Bussing became associated with popular figureheads and causes. The vast wealth of letters in the William Bussing Collection illustrates the man’s popularity and influence on history. One such letter he received was from none other than Helen Keller in April of 1943. At that time, World War II was raging across Europe and the Pacific. Droves upon droves of American fighting men joined the crusade against tyranny in Europe and the Pacific. However, some Americans felt left out of the war especially the blind and lame. Being blind herself, Keller appealed to Bussing for financial support in order to fund the American Foundation for the Blind. According to Keller, all men despite limitations were soldiers of humanity. Many soldiers in life according to Keller lay wounded on the battlefields of civilization. This included the blind members of American society who felt disenfranchised during the war. The financial support of Bussing would allow the American Foundation for the Blind to provide its members and others with disabilities a role in American society. According to Keller, the blind could be salvaged from the dark recesses of life with financial support. In addition to providing financial aid to the American Foundation for the Blind, Bussing supported the China Relief Legion.
In the 1930’s, China had been brutally invaded by the Imperial Japanese Army. Suffering, death, and starvation followed as the Japanese tightened their grip on the population. By 1942, the Chinese were actively fighting the Japanese in a struggle for national survival. The China Relief Legion was an organization designed to provide the Chinese population with necessities such as medical supplies and food. Bussing was heavily involved in the organization and often gave generous financial support to it. As a result he received an Award of Recognition along with the Press that praised Bussing and his Enterprise as saviors of Chinese civilization.
The letter was written in November of 1940 and in the letter, Hoover compliments Bussing for an article that was published in the Press. The article titled, “Dies, Jackson and the FBI” praises the FBI as an institution dedicated to justice and the protection of the American public. Hoover goes on to wish Bussing and the Press all the luck in the world and pleas for future support of the FBI through more articles.
It is amazing to think that an Evansville native such as Bussing was involved with such famous figureheads and noble organizations. The Bussing Collection in University Archives houses even more interesting stories for the curious researcher. Next time you stop by the Rice Library, head up to archives and explore the collection yourself. You might be surprised what you find.
Written by Matt Baker, USI student