• info@howardcountymuseum.org

  • 1200 West Sycamore, Kokomo,
    Indiana 46901

  • (765) 452-4314

Jane Noble Luljak

By all accounts wildly popular at Kokomo High School in the early 1940s, Jane Ann Noble reached new heights when she was elected to the Indiana House of  Representatives in 1948 while a senior in college. The story is an incredibly unlikely one and brings several layers of accomplishments and highlights. Jane was born in 1924 in Lapel, Indiana, and by age 10 was living with her family in Kokomo. Her father, Lee “Deke” Noble, was a sports writer and editor for the Kokomo Tribune for many years and then served as publisher of weekly newspapers in Greentown and Russiaville until 1969. Involved in a multitude of activities at KHS (including as Sargasso editor and prom queen), Jane graduated in 1942 and headed off to her father’s alma mater, DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. She completed two years of college work before joining the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in July 1944 in Washington, D.C. As a private first class, Jane spent the majority of her time as a cryptographic code compiler. World War II over, she mustered out on July 1, 1946, heading back to DePauw in August of that year.

On April 2, 1948, at 9 a.m., at the age of 24, Jane officially filed for to run for the office of Joint Representative for Howard and Tipton counties as a Democrat in the primary on May 4, 1948. Nominated, she spent the next six months campaigning with the slogan “Get Indiana politics out of the smoke-filled back rooms.” The slogan worked, and Jane was elected with 14,352 votes to Republican Garrett Gossard’s 9,173. Not just a pretty face (despite what seems like every newspaper description
offered at the time), Jane sat on eight House committees including military and veteran’s affairs, elections, building and loans, enrollment of bills, phraseology, state war memorial, and railroad, and was the ranking member of the labor committee. At the beginning of her term, she stated, “I don’t think I’ll introduce many bills,” but less than a month later joined Representative J.F. Haggerty in introducing a civil rights bill that would prohibit racial discrimination in public places. She would go on to introduce at least four more bills. She noted that she was interested in social welfare,  education, labor, and the use of a direct primary to nominate presidential candidates, which was a hot topic at the time. Her government endeavor was notable enough to be included in a three-page photo spread in the February 28, 1949, issue of Life magazine, which reported that Jane spent her afternoons in Indianapolis serving in the statehouse, and her mornings and weekends feverishly working on schoolwork at DePauw. Maintaining at least a B average, Jane still found time to participate in her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, as treasurer; visit Kokomo; and spend time with boyfriend Laddie Luljak, a junior at DePauw.

Speaking of Mr. Luljak, the two were married later that year on August 20, 1949, at St. Patrick Church in Kokomo. Jane had graduated from DePauw merely two months before. According to her son, David, the newlyweds lived on campus in married student housing consisting of Quonset huts until Laddie’s graduation. Jane had announced earlier in the year that she would not run for re-election at the end of her term. After his graduation in 1950, Laddie took a job in Houston, Texas and so ended Jane’s foray into politics. The Luljaks settled into family life with their son and eventually settled permanently in Sugar Land, Texas. Jane passed away in her sleep on June 11, 2011, leaving behind a legacy of what she showed was possible in the post-war era for a young woman from Kokomo, Indiana.