The chairman of an Indiana University committee says the panel will recommend adding a Black basketball player’s name to a gymnasium named after a longtime trustee who advocated racial segregation in the 1940s.
The committee will recommend renaming the Ora Wildermuth Intramural Center the William L. Garrett/Ora L. Wildermuth Fieldhouse, IU vice president Terry Clapacs told the Indiana Daily Student on Monday.
Garrett, who died in 1974, was the first Black basketball player at IU.
University President Michael McRobbie will take the recommendation to the trustees during a facilities committee meeting on Nov. 19, Clapacs said.
Clapacs said the panel opted against removing Wildermuth’s name because it would be unfair to judge what he said decades ago by today’s standards.
Letters written by Wildermuth in the 1940s came to light last year. He was the school’s Board of Trustees president during 1938-49. He died in 1964, and the Wildermuth Intramural Center was named for him in 1971.
Wildermuth was a teacher, librarian and judge during Gary’s first years as a city in the early 1900s. A Gary library branch has been named for him since 1954.
Wildermuth wrote in a 1945 letter to an IU administrator that while he had no objections to giving Blacks educational opportunities, “I am and shall always remain absolutely and utterly opposed to social intermingling of the colored race with the White.”
In a 1948 letter to IU President Herman B Wells, he wrote: “The average of the (Black) race as to intelligence, economic status and industry is so far below the white average that it seems to me futile to build up hope for a great future.”
The letters came to public attention in a 2006 book about Garrett, who became the first Black to play basketball for IU after being named the 1947 Mr. Basketball from Shelbyville High School.
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