Family and friends along with residents, dignitaries, and the political community said goodbye to former Mayor Richard G. Hatcher on Saturday, December 21 at the Genesis Convention Center in downtown Gary. Hatcher died on December 13; he was 86.
As a young activist, he co-founded Muigwithania, and “worked to build Black political power in Gary.” He was the inaugural Chairman of the Board of TransAfrica, an organization that fought to end apartheid in South Africa and ultimately freed Nelson Mandela from prison.
Hatcher is acknowledged as the first elected African American to serve as the mayor of a major U.S. city. Elected Mayor of Gary Hatcher served the city for 20 years. He was elected for five terms, from 1968 to 1988.
Longtime managing editor of the Los Angeles Sentinel Yussuf Simmonds, who died in September, at one time said of Hatcher, “His tenure as mayor was known as the Hatcher Era and his administration developed innovative ways to combat an array of urban problems from the high unemployment rate of young Blacks to civil rights issues. More so, Hatcher was able to export many of his successes to other urban cities.”
Hatcher was eulogized by longtime friend, Reverend Jesse Jackson of Rainbow/PUSH. At the conclusion, his son Jonathan Jackson mounted the podium and also delivered a rousing tribute to Hatcher, drawing much applause.
Outgoing Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson delivered remarks, the most notable of which was the announcement of her Executive Order re-naming Grant street to Hatcher Street.
Using executive authority Freeman-Wilson issued City of Gary Executive Order No. 2019-01 ordered December 20, 2019, and dated December 23, 2019 renaming Grant Street as Richard Gordon Hatcher Street.
The honoring of Hatcher was the first Executive Order of Freeman-Wilson’s eight-year administration.
Before she turns over the reins of leadership, her second Executive Order will be the renaming of Virginia Street to Malcolm X Boulevard.
Johnny Ford, former mayor of Tuskegee, AL was an unannounced speaker. Ford, who flew into town to attend services honoring his old friend, spoke warmly of his years of friendship and collaboration with Hatcher.
Daughters Ragen and Renee each delivered remarks, speaking lovingly of their father as a family man with great patience who worked tirelessly to instill Christian values in his daughters. The young women cited some of the eight values, which were printed in Hatcher’s funeral program, as guide posts which were ingrained in childhood and which they continue to follow as adults. “Believe in God, tell the truth, don’t be persuaded to do something you know is wrong,” were but a few of the values by which Hatcher raised his daughters.
In “A Last Request from the Will of Richard Gordon Hatcher,” Hatcher states, “Mine has been a wonderfully blessed and full life.
“Things have not always gone the way I wished, however, I have seen and done things that I could not have imagined as a child growing up in Michigan City, poor. God is good.
“Therefore, I would hope that my family and friends will not be saddened by my passing. I’m going to see my mother, father and so many others.
“The services should be upbeat, not somber. A celebration, not a consecration.
“Hopefully, Jesse Jackson will say a few words about the joy and purpose of my life. I tried to do somebody some good. I tried to help my people. I tried to be a great husband, I tried to be the best father in the whole world.”
The accompanying pictorial presents highlights of the funeral services of Richard G. Hatcher.