Indiana Daily Student

Garrett deserves better

Even after he is dead, Bill Garrett always seems to be slighted.

This time, the slighting came at the hands of the All University Committee on Names and its decision Monday to change the name of the  Ora L. Wildermuth Intramural Center to the William L. Garrett/Ora L. Wildermuth Fieldhouse.

For those of you who have missed the story, the committee reviewed the building’s name because several letters written by Wildermuth, a former president of the IU board of trustees, when racist and segregationist views became public.

It is understandable why people would protest the naming of one of the most popular buildings on campus after a man who supported segregation. But Terry Clapacs, head of the committee and IU’s vice president and chief administrative officer, made a compelling argument to the Indiana Daily Student when asked about the decision.

Clapacs said it is unfair to take comments made by Wildermuth and that the committee trusted the judgment of legendary IU President Herman B Wells, who served on the committee that suggested naming the building after Wildermuth.

Clapacs makes a good argument, but putting Garrett’s name on the building with Wildermuth’s is another seemingly good gesture to Garrett that ends up being an insult.

Garrett faced struggles his whole life, but he always had a positive attitude. As the first black player at IU, Garrett was subjected to racial slurs and segregation from his teammates in hotels and restaurants all across the country.

He responded by becoming an All-American his senior year and one of the best players to ever suit up for the Hoosiers.

Garrett was one of the first black players drafted in the NBA, but he never had the chance to play in the league because he was drafted into the Army. When he returned home, Garrett found out the Boston Celtics had cut him.

His NBA dream never came true, but Garrett signed with the Harlem Globetrotters. He never adapted to the showman style of basketball the Globetrotters played, so Garrett retired from professional basketball to coach high school.

Wildermuth was not a bad guy, but his ignorant views now seem pretty foolish. I don’t think we should punish his memory, but am I the only person who finds it odd that the new name is a combination of one man who was a segregationist and another who was instrumental in breaking down racial barriers the other fought to keep?

When life was tough, Garrett was tougher. His courage and attitude are qualities for which to admire and strive. I am glad his name was put on a building – I just wish it were not with Wildermuth. Both men should be honored for their respective contributions to the University, but not together. It just doesn’t seem right.

If I were in charge, I would put Garrett’s name on the fieldhouse and find another way to honor Wildermuth. Garrett broke down barriers in the fieldhouse, so it would be appropriate it be named for him. I’m sure there is something else that can be named for Wildermuth.

While Wildermuth did many things to improve the University, Garrett broke the racial barrier in the most visible part of IU as a member of the basketball team. For that, Garrett does not deserve to be forever linked with someone who tried to prevent progress from being made at IU.

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