By Crusader Staff Writer
The City of Gary Common Council recently approved a grant for a feasibility study and business plan for the National Civil Rights Museum and Hall of Fame.
The resolution, sponsored by Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson was unanimously approved by the Council. The resolution authorizes the city to provide matching funds for the submission of a proposal to the U.S. Economic Development Administration to conduct a feasibility study and develop a business plan for the project.
The National Civil Rights Museum and Hall of Fame project began under the administration of former Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher and was part of a plan to bring tourism to Gary. Following Hatcher leaving office the project failed to receive support from subsequent administrations. Freeman-Wilson is the first mayor to have signed on in support of the project and she has assigned a team to work with the Hall of Fame (HOF) Board in the developmental process.
According to Lamar Taylor, Secretary-Treasurer for the Hall of Fame Board, the organization has applied for an $85,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Economic Development to conduct the feasibility study. The city is matching the $12,750 the HOF is submitting for the grant.
“I think it is a good thing to have the city involved in the Hall of Fame project and it will be helpful in securing money as we move forward,” said Taylor.
The Hall of Fame Board has been involved in a number of projects aimed at both fund raising and marketing for the project. Early on the organization hosted a number of telethons to raise money for the project. In recent years they have held events featuring celebrities like Bill Cosby and a host of national, political and civil rights luminaries.
Recently the organization sponsored a luncheon where the scull of Nat Turner was returned to his family. The skull had been given to Mayor Hatcher several years ago at a fund raiser for the Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
In addition to housing memorabilia from the civil rights and political era, the National Civil Rights Hall of Fame will also feature local contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in Gary and Lake County.
Several years ago the organization purchased the former Banneker Elementary School for the project.
There has been discussion about purchasing property closer to Interstate 94 and locate the Civil Right Hall of Fame there to capitalize on the tourist trade.
If the feasibility study is successful the HOF Board will apply for funds from the U.S. Department of Economic Development to fund the project.