IU nixes Wildermuth name change


A sign for the Ora. L. Wildermuth Intramural Center is seen Wednesday afternoon along Seventh Street. The All University Committee on Names announced Tuesday that a decision had been reached regarding the future name of the building. Brandon Foltz Buy Photos

The name of a man who broke down racial barriers will not be juxtaposed with a segregationist’s, IU officials said Tuesday.

IU’s board of trustees voted Friday to rename the Ora L. Wildermuth Intramural Center the William L. Garrett-Ora L. Wildermuth Intramural Center.

But officials will no longer attempt to put the motion in place after complaints from Garrett’s family.

“That will not happen in any circumstance, to share a name with a strict segregationist,” said Betty Garrett, the widow of IU’s first black basketball player.

The All University Committee on Names is waiting to hear from IU President Michael McRobbie as to the University’s next move on the matter, said IU Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Terry Clapacs.

In 1948, Garrett broke the Big Ten’s tacit “gentlemen’s agreement,” which barred black players from the school’s basketball program.

Wildermuth was a founding citizen of Gary, a judge and a school teacher, as well as an IU trustee from 1925 to 1952, serving as head of the trustees from 1938 to 1949.

Wildermuth was also a segregationist, as shown in multiple letters between Wildermuth and former IU President Herman B Wells, as well as former IU comptroller Ward G. Biddle.

Betty Garrett told Clapacs that she did not want to see her husband’s name next to Wildermuth’s.
Garrett said she learned about the board’s decision in a news article and before that had no knowledge of the proposed name change.

Garrett said she was upset because the University never contacted her. The only contact the family had, she said, was when Clapacs talked with James Garrett, Bill Garrett’s nephew, about three months ago.

“The Garrett family will not support it,” Betty Garrett said.

James Garrett told Clapacs he would speak for the family, Clapacs said.

“We felt we had the blessing of the family,” Clapacs said.

In a Nov. 11 Indiana Daily Student article, James Garrett said he was “truly proud and honored” by the proposed name change.

He agreed with University officials’ argument that the two names next to each other would be a teaching opportunity.

He said in the article that while it wouldn’t change history, it would explain it.
When contacted Tuesday night, James Garrett said the family was waiting to hear other options from the University. Those options never came.

He also said that the ultimate decision rests with Betty Garrett.

James Garrett said that after reviewing Wildermuth’s writings, the family was not comfortable sharing the name with Wildermuth.

Before the trustee vote, the decision to change the building’s name had been dragged out over two years.

Friday was the second time the proposed change went before the board of trustees, having been tabled the first time and sent back to the naming committee, which Clapacs chaired.

The intent of the name change was to honor Garrett, Clapacs said. He said he would respect the wishes of the family.

“Things change,” Clapacs said. “Opinions change.”

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