Former Governor Edgar Whitcomb dies at age 98

INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Indiana Governor Edgar D. Whitcomb has died at the age of 98. 

Whitcomb passed away on Thursday, at his home in Rome, Indiana, according to a statement from Gov. Mike Pence. 

“Governor Ed Whitcomb was a great man whose life of courage, service and adventure inspired generations of Hoosiers and he will be deeply missed. Governor Whitcomb was a treasure to our state and I mark his passing with a sense of personal loss as will thousands of Hoosiers whose lives were touched by this remarkable leader," the statement from Pence said. 

Whitcomb served as governor from January 1969 to January 1973. 

According to the Indiana Historical Bureau, Whitcomb was born in Hayden, Jennings County, Indiana. He attended Indiana University until World War II, when he joined the Army Air Corps and served as  B-17 pilot. He was captured on May 7, 1942. He escaped a prison camp and swam eight miles through shark-infested waters, according to the statement from Gov. Pence. He was eventually recaptured, but escaped again. 

After the war, Whitcomb returned to Indiana University and finished his law degree. For fourteen years, he worked as a lawyer in North Vernon, Seymour, and Indianapolis, where he developed a Republican political base. 

He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1954 and for the Senate in 1964. He served as a member of the Indiana State Senate and in 1966, he was elected Indiana's secretary of state. In 1968 he was elected governor. 

After leaving office as governor, he served as director of the Mid American World Trade Association and continued his law practice in Indianapolis. 

After he retired, he moved to southern Indiana. He began sailing across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the Mediterranean. A few years later, he married his wife, Evelyn, according to the statement from Gov. Pence. 

The statement from Gov. Pence went on to say: 

“Ed Whitcomb served our country, our state and saw the world throughout his incredible life. Yet, in his later years, and for all that he did and saw, Ed knew that nothing could compare to his beloved southern Indiana.

“On behalf of all Hoosiers, Karen and I offer our deepest sympathies and prayers to Governor Ed Whitcomb’s family, his wife Evelyn, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and all those who knew this good and courageous man. Indiana will never forget or fail to be inspired by the life and example of Governor Edgar D. Whitcomb.”

Pence is directing flags at state facilities statewide to be flown at half-staff to honor Whitcomb. 

Senator Dan Coats released the following statement about Whitcomb's death: 

“Governor Whitcomb rose from a small community in Jennings County to serve Hoosiers in the highest ranks of our state government. A remarkable man who lived an amazing life, Governor Whitcomb was an author, an adventurer, a sailor, a war hero, a committed public servant and, above all else, a Hoosier. His impact on our state will be felt by generations to come, and I join with all Hoosiers in mourning the passing of a true Indiana legend.”

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