Indiana has contributed one US president and four vice presidents to the nation. Benjamin Harrison (b.Ohio, 1833–1901), the 23rd president, was a Republican who served one term (1889–93) and then returned to Indianapolis, where his home is now a national historic landmark. Three vice presidents were Indiana residents: Thomas Hendricks (b.Ohio, 1819–85), who served only eight months under President Cleveland and died in office; Schuyler Colfax (b.New York, 1823–85), who served under President Grant; and Charles Fairbanks (b.Ohio, 1852–1918), who served under Theodore Roosevelt. Two vice presidents were native sons: Thomas Marshall (1854–1925), who served two four-year terms with President Wilson and J(ames) Danforth Quayle of Indianapolis (b.1947), President George Bush's running mate in the 1988 presidential election. Marshall, remembered for his wit, originated the remark, "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar."
Other Indiana-born political figures include Eugene V. Debs (1855–1926), Socialist Party candidate for president five times, and Wendell L. Willkie (1892–1944), the Republican candidate in 1940.
A dozen native and adoptive Hoosiers have held cabinet posts. Hugh McCulloch (b.Maine, 1808–95) was twice secretary of the treasury, in 1865–69 and 1884–85. Walter Q. Gresham (b.England, 1832–95) was successively postmaster general, secretary of the treasury, and secretary of state. John W. Foster (1836–1917) was an editor and diplomat before service as secretary of state under President Benjamin Harrison. Two other postmasters general came from Indiana: Harry S. New (1858–1937) and Will H. Hays (1879–1954). Hays resigned to become president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors (1922–45), and enforced its moral code in Hollywood films through what became widely known as the Hays Office. Two Hoosiers served as secretary of the interior: Caleb B. Smith (b.Massachusetts, 1808–64) and John P. Usher (b.New York, 1816–89). Richard W. Thompson (b.Virginia, 1809–1900) was secretary of the Navy. William H. H. Miller (b.New York, 1840–1917) was attorney general. Two native sons and Purdue University alumni have been secretaries of agriculture: Claude R. Wickard (1873–1967) and Earl Butz (b.1909). Paul V. McNutt (1891–1955) was a governor of Indiana, high commissioner to the Philippines, and director of the Federal Security Administration.
Only one Hoosier, Sherman Minton (1890–1965), has served on the US Supreme Court. Ambrose Burnside (1824–81) and Lew Wallace (1827–1905) were Union generals during the Civil War; Wallace later wrote popular historical novels. Oliver P. Morton (1823–77) was a strong and meddlesome governor during the war, and a leader of the radical Republicans during the postwar Reconstruction. Colonel Richard Owen (b.England, 1810–90) commanded Camp Morton (Indianapolis) for Confederate prisoners; after the war, some of his grateful prisoners contributed to place a bust of Owen in the Indiana statehouse. Rear Admiral Norman Scott (1889–1942) distinguished himself at Guadalcanal during World War II. Nearly 70 Hoosiers have won the Medal of Honor.
Dr. Hermann J. Muller (b.New York, 1890–1967), of Indiana University, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1946 for proving that radiation can produce mutation in genes. Harold C. Urey (1893–1981) won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1934, and Wendell Stanley (1904–71) won it in 1946. The Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to Paul Samuelson (b.1915) in 1970. The Pulitzer Prize in biography was awarded in 1920 to Albert J. Beveridge (b.Ohio, 1862–1927) for his Life of John Marshall. Beveridge also served in the US Senate. Booth Tarkington (1869–1946) won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1918 and 1921. A. B. Guthrie (1901–91) won it for fiction in 1950. The Pulitzer Prize in history went to R. C. Buley (1893–1968) in 1951 for The Old Northwest.
Aviation pioneer Wilbur Wright (1867–1912) was born in Millville. Other figures in the public eye were chemist Harvey W. Wiley (1844–1930), who was responsible for the Food and Drug Act of 1906; Emil Schram (1893–1897), president of the New York Stock Exchange from 1931 to 1951; and Alfred C. Kinsey (b.New Jersey, 1894–1956), who investigated human sexual behavior and issued the two famous "Kinsey reports" in 1948 and 1953.
Indiana claims such humorists as George Ade (1866–1944), Frank McKinney "Kin" Hubbard (b.Ohio, 1868–1930), and Don Herold (1889–1966). Historians Charles (1874–1948) and Mary (1876–1958) Beard, Claude Bowers (1878–1958), and Glenn Tucker (1892–1976) were Hoosiers. Maurice Thompson (1844–1901) and George Barr McCutcheon (1866–1928) excelled in historical romances. The best-known poets were James Whitcomb Riley (1849–1916) and William Vaughn Moody (1869–1910). Juvenile writer Annie Fellows Johnston (1863–1931) produced the "Little Colonel" series.
Other Indiana novelists include Edward Eggleston (1837–1902), Meredith Nicholson (1866–1947), David Graham Phillips (1868–1911) Gene Stratton Porter (1868–1924), Theodore Dreiser (1871–1945), Lloyd C. Douglas (1877–1951), Rex Stout (1886–1975), William E. Wilson (b.1906), Jessamyn West (1907–84), and Kurt Vonnegut (b.1922). Well-known journalists were news analyst Elmer Davis (1890–1958), war correspondent Ernie Pyle (1900–45), and columnist Janet Flanner (1892–1978), "Genet" of The New Yorker.
Among the few noted painters Indiana has produced are Theodore C. Steele (1847–1928), William M. Chase (1851–1927), J. Ottis Adams (1851–1927), Otto Stark (1859–1926), Wayman Adams (1883–1959), Clifton Wheeler (1883–1953), Marie Goth (1887–1975), C. Curry Bohm (1894–1971), and Floyd Hopper (b.1909).
Composers of Indiana origin have worked mainly in popular music: Paul Dresser (1857–1906), Cole Porter (1893–1964), and Howard Hoagland "Hoagy" Carmichael (1899–1981). Howard Hawks (1896–1977) was a renowned film director. Entertainers from Indiana include actor and dancer Clifton Webb (Webb Hollenbeck, 1896–1966); orchestra leader Phil Harris (1904–95); comedians Ole Olsen (1892–1963), Richard "Red" Skelton (1913–97), and Herb Shriner (b.Ohio, 1918–70); actresses Marjorie Main (1890–1975) and Carole Lombard (Jane Peters, 1908–42); and singer Michael Jackson (b.1958).
Hoosier sports heroes include Knute Rockne (b.Norway, 1888–1931), famed as a football player and coach at Notre Dame. Star professionals who played high school basketball in Indiana include Oscar Robertson (b.Tennessee, 1938) and Larry Bird (b.1956), who at Indiana State University in 1978/79 was honored as college basketball's player of the year.