“It’s about time Gary had a sports hall of fame”
The Gary Sports Hall of Fame won’t be just for the game changers like Glen Robinson, Tony Zale, Dick Barnett, Hank Stram, and the eight others whose faces were on the “Wall of Fame” unveiling, said Earl Smith. “The Hall of Fame will include a lot of people who made some major contributions to the growth and enhancement of athletics in Gary. And we’re asking the community to send us nominations of who they think should be included.”
The Gary Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors (Earl H. Smith, Jr. – Board Chairman; Charles “Chuck” Hughes – Board Vice Chairman; Earline S. Rogers – Board Secretary; Al Hamnik – Board Member; Fred B. Mitchell – Board Member and John E. Stroia – Board Member) were at the Indiana University Northwest campus June 29, 2022, to announce their new home and unveil the first 12 inductees.
IU Northwest (IUN) Chancellor Ken Iwama related the unveiling to the unveiling a few weeks ago of an Indiana State Historical Marker commemorating the history of the Gary campus. “Then as now, we know how our present and future are built on the great legacies of the past. How fitting that we are today celebrating the establishment of the Gary Sports Hall of Fame to recognize coaches and athletes who have left indelible marks of excellence not just in Gary, but in the state, nation, and across the world.”
“We are thrilled to house the Gary Sports Hall of Fame in the Arts & Sciences building, our newest building at IU Northwest,” Iwama said. “This aligns with our initiative to foster collaborations that promote, build and sustain the wellbeing of our campus and communities.”
Mayor Jerome Prince described the importance of the hall of fame. “It’s an opportunity to connect the past with the present. It’s a mechanism to honor and recognize what we consider the best of the best. We are creating a blueprint for those who aspire to be the best. This is going to be another attraction in creating a destination city in Gary.”
The Gary Sports Hall of Fame was incorporated on Friday, November 14, 2014, for the purpose of identifying and commemorating the athletic achievements of individuals who played for or coached Gary High School athletic teams or whose athletic achievements are clearly identified with the City of Gary.
Helping to move the hall of fame forward was a $10,000 donation from the Dean & Barbara White Family Foundation, matched by Bruce and Beth White, for a total of $20,000.
“It’s exciting to see the strength of partnerships. IUN is a great partner of the city of Gary and we want to be supportive of celebrating Gary,” said Bill Hanna, executive director of the White Family Foundation. “We are saying to our community partners please join us in matching those funds and stepping up for the success of this effort.”
Fred Mitchell, a board member and a former sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune, is a Tolleston grad.
“That’s where I got my start in journalism,” Mitchell said. “Over 41 years at the Tribune, I spent a lot of time trying to educate people from all over the world about some of the great athletes Gary has produced. I’m so happy now that there will be tangible evidence to show and tell people about the hall of fame commemorating these athletes.”
Retired newspaper sportswriter and board member Al Hamnik thought it would never happen.
“It’s about time this hall of fame became a reality. I’ve had so many historians and writers tell me that of all the cities in Indiana, Gary has the second richest athletic tradition behind Indianapolis. And we never had a hall of fame.”
Hamnik said the hall of fame had always been a political football, “not the right time, not the right place, not enough funds and not enough interest.”
There are two things we want to happen, Hamnik said. “We want to let young people know that Gary has a great athletic tradition and that if they aspire athletically and academically, they can make something out of themselves. These aren’t just former jocks. They went into entertainment, education, politics, and made something of themselves. And they were from Gary.”
A total of twelve individuals make up the 2021 and 2022 Induction Classes, and they or their designated representatives will be honored on Friday, July 29, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. in the IUN Arts and Sciences Building Auditorium, 3415 Broadway.
The cost to attend the Induction Ceremony is $25.00 per person.
The Class of 2021 Inductees includes Richard “Dick” Barnett, Rhonda Brady Gilles Anderson, Lee Calhoun, Thomas “Tom” Harmon, Alexander “Alex” Karras, and Ronald “Ron” Kittle.
The Class of 2022 Inductees includes Lloyd McClendon, Glenn Robinson, Henry “Hank” Stram, George Taliaferro, Frederick “Fred” Williamson, and Anthony “Tony Zale” Zaleski.
Chuck Hughes, board vice-chair said, “The hall of fame is going to be something where our young people will be able to come, visualize and educate themselves. This is going to attract people to this beautiful campus.”
Each year, there will be an Induction Ceremony to honor at least six individuals, and the public is being asked to complete nomination forms which can be found on the Gary Sports Hall of Fame website (https://garysportshalloffame.org) to select candidates they feel are most deserving of this honor.
The Gary Sports Hall of Fame is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. Donations are tax-deductible contributions and can be made quickly through the DONATE page on the website via PayPal or through mailing a check or money order to Gary Sports Hall of Fame, P.O. Box 641267, Gary, IN 46401.