The Crusader Newspaper Group

Time to put plans for a Gary museum into motion

Vernon Williams

This is the conclusion of a conversation started last week. The topic has generated considerable discussion including as much email to me as received for any previous column.

The bottom line is that G.I. people are fed up.

To briefly recap, we put on Front Street the pervasive assault on Gary’s character as well as the gross underassessment of the role the city has played in American society.

A historically-accurate museum is the best approach to properly frame the legacy of the place once called “The City of the Century.” It may be the best strategy to preserve the significance of the city’s major contribution to the national landscape.

Cynics and perennial critics scoff at the notion of a virtual shrine of acknowledgment of people, places and things out of Gary that have been game changers, huge difference makers. The evidence says otherwise.

In commerce and industry, obviously that section would focus on the indisputable acclaim of being the steel producing capital of world for a substantial part of a century.

In the education wing of the museum, no one can deny the template that William A. Wirt established for school system structure across the country; not to mention the storied legacy of Gary Roosevelt High School.

In amateur and professional sports, Gary boasts a lengthy array of track and field accomplishments; high school basketball dominance; laudable college and NBA standouts; along with NFL and MLB stars as well as Olympians.

In government and politics, Gary produced the first Black mayor of a major U.S. city, the congressperson who wrote the bill making the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a national holiday, and hosted the seminal National Black Convention in 1972.

The screen and stage section will showcase a star-studded lineup of television, cinematic, and stage actors, producers, directors, writers and contributors … behind the scene professionals.

The music industry will require its own space in the Gary museum to make room for recognition of a long list of musicians, song writers, recording artists, promoters, and Vivian Carter, whose VeeJay label blazed a trail as the forerunner for Motown.

There are too many other potential areas to mention including science, media, style and fashion, religion, and entrepreneurship,

The Gary museum would honor those who stayed and maintained their roots, who soared to greatness, like Powers and Sons Construction; along with cutting-edge G.I. achievers who ventured their expertise throughout the nation and around the world.

The case for a Gary museum is a no-brainer. The appeal to visitors far and near is obvious. The quality of substantive content could be superior. And of course, high technology should enhance the museum experience. There’s already more than enough reason to get started.

First Question: How many out there—in or from the Region—share the belief that this could be a serious game changer and a valuable approach to setting the record straight on Gary, Indiana?

Last Question: Will anyone locally take the initiative to at least advance dialogue on the possibilities of a Gary museum? Or will the concept just wither away on the faded pages of aging newsprint—lost in the lack of innovative thinkers and visionaries?

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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