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Indianapolis’ Capitol Ave. to be named Reverend Charles R. Williams Memorial Way

The City of Indianapolis plans to unveil the Reverend Charles R. Williams Memorial Way on Friday, June 28th at 9:00 a.m. as part of a special ceremony free and open to the public at the Georgia Street entrance of the Indiana Convention Center.

Reverend Charles Williams served as an effective voice and vehicle for the social and economic advancement of African Americans in the state of Indiana. “Reverend Williams dedicated his life to service and was a valiant stalwart of racial equality and civil rights for disadvantaged people,” said IBE President Alice Watson. “He championed social and economic prosperity and he empowered and galvanized the community through every initiative that he led and touched. Reverend Williams was a vital asset to our state and the Reverend Charles R. Williams Memorial Way is a way to remember his enormous footprint and legacy,” added Watson.

Reverend Williams’ journey began in the segregated South, where early experiences with racial injustice fueled his lifelong commitment to civil rights. He pursued theological studies and became an ordained minister, dedicating his life to both the church and social activism.

In 1976, Reverend Williams served as the Special Assistant to Mayor of the City of Indianapolis William Hudnut, where he coordinated the City’s community relations efforts. He resigned in 1983 and became the first paid president of Indiana Black Expo (IBE). He served as IBE’s president for 21 years until he passed away on July 12, 2004, at age 56. Under his leadership, IBE transformed from a volunteer-based organization into one of the most notable entities in the city and state. He secured funding to employ full-time staff and saw gross revenues double, all while developing year-round youth and family programs.

At the end of 2003, IBE had grown to 10 chapters across Indiana with $2.06 million in assets and annual revenues of $5.97 million. One of Williams’ significant achievements was the creation of the annual Circle City Classic in 1984, a collegiate football game that showcases Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Midwest. The Circle City Classic Scholarship Fund has provided more than $5.1 million in scholarships to Indiana students to attend college.

Reverend Williams’ impact extended far beyond IBE. He was instrumental in showcasing Black culture through Indiana Black Expo events, resulting in more than a billion dollars in economic impact on the city of Indianapolis. His life’s work fostered the development and growth of numerous small minority businesses throughout Indiana. He was an ordained minister, community advocate, trusted advisor, and charismatic leader who served on several boards of organizations across the state.

He helped create the first Indianapolis Jazz Festival, earmarking proceeds for the Indianapolis Urban League and the Indianapolis Opportunities Industrialization Center. As the first chaplain for the Indiana Pacers Basketball Corporation and a charter board member of the Pacers Foundation, Reverend Williams played a key role in the creation of the Landmark for Peace Memorial in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

Reverend Williams received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Sagamore of the Wabash, the Distinguished Service Award from the Publishers Association, the Living Legends in Black Award, and the Congressional Lifetime Achievement Award. He was featured nationally in Ebony and JET Magazines, the Phil Donahue Show, and the Oprah Winfrey Show. He held a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Martin Center College of Religious Studies and honorary doctorates from the Christian Theological Seminary.

“We are honored to recognize Reverend Charles R. Williams with this memorial way,” said Indianapolis City-County Council President, and IBE Board Chairman Vop Osili. “His relentless dedication to community empowerment, social justice, and economic progress has left an indelible mark on Indianapolis. Reverend Williams’ legacy continues to inspire and uplift our city, and this memorial will stand as a testament to his extraordinary contributions and impact.”

For information about the special ceremony unveiling for the Reverend Charles R. Williams Memorial Way on Friday, June 28th, contact Cara Holdsclaw at 317-925-2702.

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