Widow steps in; giving continues
In the next decade, Tony's widow would emerge as family leader and one of the richest women in America. In the days and months after his family buried Tony, though, questions about the future lingered.
The shooting death of his son-in-law, speedway vice-president Elmer George, little more than a year before brought scandal. Tony Hulman's daughter, Mary ``Mari'' Antonia Hulman George, filed for divorce May 3. Then a Race Day quarrel began in the speedway penthouse and spilled to the Hulman farm east of Terre Haute.
Elmer George broke in the back door of the home of 34-year-old horse trainer Guy Trolinger, whom he'd earlier fired and ordered to leave the farm. The shooting started at the back door and continued to the living room and up the stairway. The two fired as many as 17 shots, police said. Trolinger shot George five times. A grand jury, in effect, ruled the killing self-defense.
The shooting and events to come would form public opinions and roles, sometimes scarring ones, for the next generations of Hulmans. For the time being, Tony's right-hand man, Joe Cloutier, stepped into the void, at least publicly. He'd already handled much of the business, and now he became speedway president; Mary Hulman became chairman of the board.
Mary was to receive $6.4 million of the $14.5 million estate, according to the terms of the will. Their daughter and her four children -- Nancy Lee George, Anton Hulman ``Tony'' George, Katherine Marie ``Kathi'' George and Mary Josephine ``Josie'' George -- received $1.2 million each. However, some of his assets were in the Anton Hulman Jr. Real Estate Trust set up in 1967, with Cloutier as trustee; the $14.5 million appraised for state inheritance tax purposes did not include that trusts or other trusts. The estate increased more than $6 million in the early '80s, after the state complained it failed to provide necessary information.
Before 1978, Mary never said the words she uttered to kick off the 62nd Indianapolis 500. She was ready one year but ended up on the wrong side of the track when the time came, she told an interviewer. That May, though, her words rang out slow and clear: ``Gentlemen, start your engines.''
Mary -- ``Big Mary'' to friends, who call her daughter ``Little Mary'' -- described herself as private. Before her husband's death, she devoted herself to family, an extensive art and antique collection and serving as hostess for her husband's business and social gatherings. She had other causes, too, like the Vigo County Historical Society and the Sheldon Swope Art Gallery, which contains the Mary F. Hulman Room, a permanent 19th century American gallery.
Now the lady with formal manners and pale blue eyes, who taught her grandchildren formal dining and to bow and curtsy, entered the business world. She would surprise many.
The family received offers concerning the speedway, but she denied rumors it would sell to famed driver and family friend A.J. Foyt or others. She became the first woman on the boards of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Terre Haute First National Bank, where the Hulmans then held the single largest interest. She fired Robert Larr, who had managed WTHI-TV and radio stations for more than 20 years.
She moved to Indianapolis in 1985. The next year, though she disdained publicity, she made Forbes magazine's list of the 400 richest people in America. Mary Hulman was worth $180 million, the magazine said.
That worth reflected few property sales; Mary followed her husband's business tenets. However, in 1981, the family sold the Indianapolis bottling company Tony bought in 1965 for an estimated $30 million. The Hulmans also sold gas companies in Terre Haute and Richmond to Indiana Energy, which netted them more than 13 percent in the Indianapolis-based gas company reportedly worth more than $50 million. Acquisitions included three television stations and two radio networks. The Hulmans bought Indianapolis television station WMCC and renamed it WNDY. They also bought WFTX, a Fox affiliate serving Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Naples in Florida, and WOAG, serving Ocala and Gainesville. They have since sold WOAG. The Florida stations, purchased in 1987, cost an estimated $25 million to $30 million.
In the 1980s and beyond, family members also turned their attention to Indianapolis beneficiaries as business interests led them in that direction. Gifts included $3.5 million in December 1985 to the Indianapolis Museum of Art from Mari as trustee of the Mary Fendrich Hulman Charitable Trust; it helped finance the $8.5 million, five-story Mary Fendrich Hulman Pavilion.
A year later, Tony George returned to alma mater Indiana State University to present $2 million from the Mary Fendrich Hulman Charitable Trust for an $8.65 million student union complex. In 1988, Mary gave her Evansville childhood home to Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. The foundation sold the home, with art glass windows and imported South American walnut and mahogany paneling, for $220,000 and used part of the money to establish the statewide Mary Fendrich Hulman Preservation Fund.
Like many of the family's philanthropic efforts, that gift reflected a member's interests -Mary's in historic preservation. Her daughter's love of horses prompted her in 1989 to commit $629,000 to endow and establish the Mari Hulman George School of Equine Studies at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. In October 1995, the family donated $500,000 to repair masonry of the college's nearly 30-year-old science building, now the Mary Fendrich Hulman Hall of the Arts and Sciences; she had graduated from the former high school there, St. Mary-of-the-Woods Academy, in 1923.
Today, Tony George is considering another Terre Haute philanthropic effort: ``My son, Tony, plays hockey, and I would like to, at some point, build a skating rink. We travel around the state and around the Midwest playing hockey. We go to about every city of any size in Indiana, and only Terre Haute doesn't have any ice.
``I think that the schools and that the community should experience ice skating and the sport of hockey. It's a great game.''