Carolene Mays, the editor in chief of the Indianapolis Recorder, the oldest surviving African-American publications, knows a thing or two about surviving. This creator of headlines nearly ended up on the front page herself. As her and her husband were visiting Dallas, he held a gun to her head a threatened to end her life and his own. He had nothing left to live for, he said.
Carolene Mays Congress video in Indianapolis, Indiana
With a stroke of divine intervention, the telephone rang. Her brother, whom she had not heard from in years, had a strange feeling and wanted to call and check on her. Little did he know that when he picked up the phone that evening he would be saving his sister’s life.
Before becoming a role model for young girls across the Hoosier state, Carolene Mays faced some trials and tribulations in her life. Born in South Bend, Indiana, she lived a relatively care free life until her father moved her family to the West side of Indianapolis. As one of only four black female students at Ben Davis High School in the 1960s, she was thrown a lot of curve balls in her adolescents. Integration was still a new idea for cities in Indiana and the world. And she can count herself among heroes like Ruby Bridges, featured in the Power of Children exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
The intense situations she faced at school helped to mold her personality. She became deeply absorbed in her academic studies and developed an incredibly strong work ethic. She was elected by her peers to represent Ben Davis High School at Indiana Girls State, where she was elected State Attorney General. She even applied for special permission to begin working at the age of 14 and a half at Baskin Robins.
Her thick skin and stong back bone guided her through her teenage years. Eventually she found herself enrolled in a media workshop at Ball State University. Her mother recalls driving her from place to place in an attempt to keep up with Carolene’s busy schedule.
After becoming an alum of Ben Davis, her parents strongly urged her to attend one of the many fine Indianapolis educational institutions for higher learning. However, she was clear headed about her desire to make a career for herself in the world of retail. In the end a compromise was made. She would attend classes part time at Indiana University Purdue University (IUPUI) while working in Indianapolis downtown at Sycamore.
After receiving only a 15 cent raise after one semester, Carolene Mays realized the value of education and enrolled in Indiana State University in Bloomington. She kept up her busy pace there, becoming intricately involved in student life, sororities, and of course working part time. In 1985, she graduated with a Bachelors of Science in business management and a minor in marketing.
For years she worked as a productive member of Indianapolis society. Until one day in 1998, Bill Mays came into her office and asked her to run the Indianapolis Recorder. Her initial response was confusion. “I don’t know anything about print media,” she said. But he insisted, pointing to her head for business and business management.
She immediately recognized the need to digitize the Recorder. She switched printers, changed to digital layout and changed the editorial content of the paper. Some were skeptical about the direction she was taking the paper in. But her risks paid off ten-fold. The paper operated at a profit with an increase in circulation by 20,000 readers a mere six months after she made the changes.
Carolene Mays status as a notable person in Indianapolis has become apparent to many who invest in Indianapolis media. She is the host and producer of The Recorder on Air Report (ROAR) and co-host weekly television segments on WISH-TV, reporting on Indianapolis community events.
On top of all of this, Carolene Mays has found her way onto the political stage of Indiana. She campaigned door to door in the Pike Township district for her candidacy for the Indiana State House of Representatives. If and when she wins she will be the fifth black woman in the Indiana State Legislature.
Regardless of where you are in the Circle City, you have probably seen Carolene Mays face in one place or another. She is definitely a woman to keep track of in Indianapolis, as it seems that every where she goes she makes her own special mark.