Former Gary, Indiana, Mayor Richard G. Hatcher Seeks Support for Civil Rights Museum

Former Gary Mayor Richard G. Hatcher discusses the return of the National Black Political Convention to Gary in June. Jim Karczewski/Post-Tribune (Jim Karczewski / Post-Tribune)
Former Gary Mayor Richard G. Hatcher discusses the return of the National Black Political Convention to Gary in June. Jim Karczewski/Post-Tribune (Jim Karczewski / Post-Tribune)

To Gary Common Council member LaVetta Sparks-Wade it is all too appropriate that the city is being asked to give its support to a dream of former Mayor Richard Hatcher to develop a museum about the struggle for civil rights. 

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the mayoral election that saw Hatcher become one of the first black men to serve as mayor of a major U.S. city.

“I think beginning construction of this museum would be the perfect tribute to Hatcher and his accomplishments,” she said of the man who served as Gary mayor for 20 years.

Hatcher appeared before the Common Council to make a plea for support for his project Tuesday.

Hatcher did not ask Gary city officials to provide any money for the project, at least not Tuesday.

“I’m not here to ask for a single dollar, although I’m not saying I won’t come back later,” he said.

As Hatcher envisions it, he wants to establish a museum that would pay tribute to the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s, and it would include a hall of fame.

It would have a national focus, although Sparks-Wade, D-6th, said she believes Hatcher’s election in Gary and the 1972 National Black Political Convention held in Gary make the Northwest Indiana city a natural place to locate it.

Hatcher cited potential economic benefits for Gary, saying he believes such a museum would become a tourist attraction that could bring about 500,000 people annually to Gary.

“They would spend their money right here in our city,” Hatcher said, while also talking vaguely of jobs that could be created.

Hatcher currently is focusing his pleas for funding on the Lake County Board of Commissioners, where he is seeking at least a portion of the $9.148 million it would take to construct a facility on 10 acres of land in the 2300 block of Garfield Street – a location he emphasizes is just two blocks from the Grant Street interchange on Interstate 80-94.

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Source: Chicago Tribune | Gregory Tejeda