A Grand Celebration for a Gary Institution

Hundreds turned out to honor Gary Crusader at its 55th Anniversary Gala


The 55-year history and legacy of the Gary Crusader was celebrated at a festive gala on Friday, June 3 at the Gary/Chicago International Airport. Nearly 600 guests packed the Bessie Coleman Aviation hangar to mark another milestone in the newspaper’s history.

On a balmy Friday evening, Honorary Chairman Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and the city’s first Black mayor, Richard Gordon Hatcher were among numerous dignitaries who congratulated Publisher Dorothy R. Leavell and the Gary Crusader staff for staying with the city through five turbulent decades.

The festive evening began with a cocktail reception that featured the Gary Symphony Orchestra, an organization that was admired and supported by the late Gary historian, Dharathula “Dolly” Millender, who was honored posthumously for her efforts in promoting Black pride and culture in the city. Elegant music filled the Black-owned hangar as guests mingled in a lavish, colorful atmosphere that featured two VIP lounges, two cocktail bars and a towering, stunning ice sculpture that included the official Gary Crusader 55th anniversary logo. Guests feasted on dozens of jumbo shrimp and hors d’oeuvres before they gravitated to the main event, a gala that left many filled with memories and appreciation of the progress that Blacks in the Steel City have achieved since the Crusader opened in a small office on Broadway in 1961.

Many distinguished Gary residents were honored throughout the evening. They include retiring State Senator Earline S. Rogers, Vernon G. Smith, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Business Mogul Elzie L. Higginbottom, Jr., and Political Veteran Robert “Bob” Freeland. Kelly and Samuel Polk, two Nation of Islam brothers who persuaded Crusader founder Balm L. Leavell to start the Gary Crusader, were also honored.

The Crusader also bestowed posthumous honors on former Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt D. Allen, Congresswoman Katie Hall, Dharathula “Dolly” Millender and Dr. A. William Douglas Jr., a trailblazing engineer who developed the Gary/Chicago International Airport.

Another honoree, noted author and scholar Michael Eric Dyson, lit up the evening as he gave the audience a fiery keynote message from his newly released book, “The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in Black America.”

The theme of the Crusader’s 55th Anniversary Gala was “55 Years of Highlighting Our Past and Crusading for Our Future.” It was a theme that was captured in an elaborate, 48-page special commemorative edition of the Gary Crusader.

View the Gary Crusader’s 55th Anniversary Gala photos below!

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  1. Mrs. Leavell and Mr. Smith are so dedicated to the communities of Gary and Chicago. I marvel at all the great work that the newspapers do, whether directly into the communities that they serve or with the stellar reporting about and for the communities.


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