The widow of the Big Ten’s first Black basketball player says no one from Indiana University ever asked her about possibly adding his name to a campus gymnasium named for a trustee who advocated segregation in the 1940s.
University officials have backed off the plan approved by the Board of Trustees last week to add Bill Garrett’s name to the Ora L. Wildermuth Intramural Center.
“It’s not going to happen,” Betty Garrett, who was married to Garrett for 22 years when he died in 1974, told The Herald-Times.
Garrett was the Indiana Mr. Basketball at Shelbyville High School in 1947 before he played at Indiana during 1948-51.
Betty Garrett said she was not consulted about putting her husband’s name on the gymnasium along with that of Wildermuth, who was the IU board president in 1945 when he wrote a letter to then-school President Herman B.Wells saying he opposed integration of the school. Wildermuth died in 1964 and the letter came to public attention in a 2006 book about Garrett.
Betty Garrett spoke about the couple’s children and their successes — one is an attorney, another a minister — in discussing her stance.
“That’s Bill Garrett’s legacy. Not a building with a plaque, opposite from a segregationist,” she said. “He’s bigger than a building. He will not be disgraced by having his name by Wildermuth.”
Terry Clapacs, an IU vice president who led the committee that proposed the new gym name, said Tuesday that he had been in contact with a nephew of William Garrett about the proposal.
He said he did not know how the matter would be resolved, although it would likely go before the Board of Trustees again.
“We had the blessing of the Garrett family. We’ve been informed we don’t now,” Clapacs said. “It was our intention all along to honor the Garrett family. If the family doesn’t accept it that way, then we will of course respect the family’s wishes.”
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com