(Nov. 11, 1923 – May 28, 2001). Born in Iron Mountain, Michigan, Fred Heckman’s itinerant family moved 29 times before settling in Washington, D.C., where he graduated from Bullis Naval Academy. He attended the University of Arizona, George Washington University and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Indianapolis.
Heckman served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II and the U.S. Naval Reserve, where he worked as a radioman, focusing on cryptography during the Korean War. His work as a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army from 1975 to 2000 earned him a lifetime designation as Civilian Aide Emeritus.
After his military service, Heckman worked at radio stations along the East Coast for 11 years before settling in Indianapolis to work atin 1957. He was a Senior News Analyst and News Director at the station.
During his 32 year tenure, Heckman was known for his practical yet strict journalistic standards. He strove to diversify story content and lobbied for reporters who reflected the growing heterogeneity of Indianapolis. Under his aegis, WIBC-AM became one of Indianapolis’ highest-rated radio stations. His “My Town Indy” radio essay segments, which aired at the end of WIBC-AM’s noon newscasts, were a staple of the station for 30 years. He became one of the most trusted and well-known newsmen in Indianapolis.
In 1977, Heckman played a pivotal role in resolving a hostage situation that gained national attention. After Tony Kiritsis kidnapped Richard O. Hall, president of Meridian Mortgage Company, and called the station hoping to plead his case, Heckman talked to Kiritsis multiple times during the 63-hour incident, broadcasting Kiritsis’ demands on-air to help diffuse tension. Having gained the trust of the kidnapper, Heckman teamed with the FBI and law enforcement agencies to secure the release of the hostage.
Heckman left WIBC-AM in 1993 after multiple disagreements with the station’s new management. His controversial retirement brought negative publicity and age discrimination complaints to the station. Afterpurchased WIBC in April 1994, the company’s founder and CEO, Jeff Smulyan, brought Heckman back as news director emeritus, along with “My Town Indy.” Heckman remained with the station until he retired in 2000.
His civic engagement included work with local and national organizations. He was a board member of the Methodist Hospital Foundation, the Indiana Vietnam/Korean War Memorials advisory committee, the. Heckman served as president of the Associated Press Broadcast Organization and the United Press International Broadcast Organization.
During his career, he received numerous awards to signify his hard work and impact in Indianapolis. He was named to the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame and the Indiana Broadcast Hall of Fame. He was also named a Sagamore of the Wabash, one of the highest honors given to a resident of Indiana.