Indianapolis philanthropist, businessman P.E. MacAllister dies at 101


P.E. MacAllister (Photo from MacAllister Machinery)

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Philanthropist and prominent Indianapolis businessman Pershing Edwin MacAllister—better known as P.E. MacAllister—has died at the age of 101.

MacAllister was named after General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing. He was born in 1918 and grew up in Wisconsin. After graduating from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. He served in World War II in the European and African theaters between May 1942 and August 1944.

He was discharged from the Army in 1945 and married Violet Rebecca Cochran. They had four children together, three girls and a boy.

In May 1945, he began working for his father at MacAllister Machinery. He made his way up through the ranks, serving as a mechanic, salesman and warehouse worker. He became president of the company in 1952. He and his brother, Dave, ran the company for 30 years as it continued to grow and thrive.

He was known for his work ethic and often went to the office on Saturdays. A longtime resident of Indianapolis, MacAllister and his family were regulars at Northminster Presbyterian Church.

A supporter of the arts, he served as president of the Indianapolis Opera Company and as a board member of the Indiana State Symphony Society. He was vice chair of the Edyvean Repertory Theatre Board and a member of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts.

He served as president of the Capital Improvement Board, overseeing construction of the Indiana Convention Center and the Hoosier Dome, two projects that transformed the city.

He also had an interest in politics, serving as a presidential elector three times and founding the Greater Indianapolis Republican Finance Committee and The Chairman’s Club. He advised several candidates over the years, offering strategic, financial and “sage” advice, according to his obituary from MacAllister Machinery. He was campaign treasurer for Richard Lugar’s mayoral elections, as well as William Hudnut’s mayoral and congressional campaigns.

MacAllister served in multiple capacities at his alma mater, Carroll College, where he was on the board for more than five decades and served as chairman for 17 years.

The Indiana Historical Society recognized him as a Living Legend in 2009. In 2014, he received the Sachem Award.

Gov. Eric Holcomb issued the following statement:

“Even though P.E. lived until the incredible age of 101, Janet and I were crushed to hear of his passing. I’m thankful for the impact this veteran, educator, corporate titan and all around Renaissance man left on Hoosiers and the world. He was a man of deep faith and compassion with a heart for Indiana. I ask that all Hoosiers join me in offering prayers and condolences to P.E’s family and friends.”

Mayor Joe Hogsett said this of MacAllister:

“The greatness of P.E. is that he was not one thing, he was many things. A veteran, a businessman, a civic leader, and a philanthropist – his impact on our community cannot be overstated. Over the course of P.E.’s life, our city rapidly evolved and much of the vibrancy we enjoy today is a direct reflection of P.E.’s generosity and vision.”

State Sen. Aaron Freeman released a statement:

This week we lost one of Indiana’s most revered and influential citizens in P.E. MacAllister.

MacAllister’s life was one we all hope to emulate. Born in 1918, he would go on to serve his country and community over the next 101 years through military and public service.

After rising to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant during World War II, MacAllister returned stateside to work for his father at MacAllister Machinery, where he rose from part-packer to president by 1952. From there he went on to chair a number of boards and organizations throughout greater Indianapolis.

He served as president of the Capital Improvement Board and oversaw the development of the Indiana Convention Center and the Hoosier Dome, which brought business and professional sports to the city.

He dedicated his time to the arts by serving as president of the Indianapolis Opera, chairing the Fine Arts Society of Indianapolis and establishing the MacAllister Awards for Opera Singers.

He also served as campaign treasurer for Richard Lugar’s mayoral elections, as well as for William Hudnut’s mayoral and congressional campaigns. He was also a member of the Electoral College in 1976, 1980 and 2000.

MacAllister’s expansive body of work was recognized by the Indiana Historical Society in 2009, naming him an Indiana Living Legend, and in 2014, he received the Sachem Award, Indiana’s highest honor.

Our city would not be what it is today without P.E. MacAllister. His hard work, dedication and selfless attitude turned Indianapolis into the thriving metropolis that we currently see.

We are all deeply saddened by his passing, and he will forever be remembered as an Indiana icon.

Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer released this statement:

“Indiana lost a legend. P.E. MacAllister was a veteran, business pioneer, humanitarian, great patron of the arts, philanthropist and so much more over his 101 years. In fact, you almost run out of superlatives when trying to describe his monumental life of achievement and service to Indiana. A long life lived well, P.E. will be missed but his contributions to our state ensure his life and legacy will never be forgotten. My thoughts and prayers will be with his family in the days ahead.”

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