I noticed recently a request for
proposals for a statute to be commissioned of William Hudnut,
Indy's longest-serving and most-effective mayor.
deserve a statue? Absolutely. No question.
As we gear up for our
bicentennial, I'm getting excited about the prospect of celebrating our Hoosier
If you're downtown, take a walk
around the grounds of the Statehouse as we finally thaw from this winter of our
discontent. I did last fall, and I noticed something unusual. Yes, besides the
historical marker recognizing Indiana's
1907 Eugenics Law.
I counted 10 pedestals along
the north and south sides of the grounds with another four spots that could
provide a base for statuary.
Indianapolis is second in the nation when it comes to how many memorials we have. Time to make a move for first.
So I make this humble proposal
to the Bicentennial Committee: How about we commission statues to occupy these
tabulae rasae and get all Hoosiers thinking about just which of our illustrious
natives represents us, our values and our spirit?
And for the sake of discussion,
I thought I'd take a stab at who those 14 should be. Looking through the list
of famous Hoosiers, I realized quickly that I had hard decisions to make.
So I eliminated some that you'd
expect right off: Eli
Whitcomb Riley, Kurt
Vonnegut and Madam
Walker are all well-represented by institutions that bear their names. I
also didn't consider people associated with Indiana, but who weren't born here:
Amelia Earhart, Levi Coffin, Bill Monroe and Etheridge
Knight as notable examples.
Here's my list, and let the
"Three Fingers" Brown: Earning the nickname after losing parts of two
fingers on his pitching hand, this Hall of Famer turned a disability into an
advantage, serving up a wicked curve ball and a career E.R.A. of 2.06.
V. Debs: This is the nonstarter. I can't imagine anyone putting a socialist
on the Statehouse lawn, but you have to admire a guy who runs for president
while in jail. Vonnegut often quoted Debs' great line, "... while there is a
lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and
while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
Fisher: When you consider Indy's automobile and auto racing legacies, you
have to commemorate Carl Fisher.
Lombard: Best known for being the wife of Clark Gable, she died tragically
in a plane crash after a stop in her native Indiana to sell war bonds. But this
talented actress starred with a slew of screen legends. Watch her at her best
in the original To Be or Not To Be.
- Steve McQueen:
Beech Grove's "King of Cool" beats out James Dean and Karl Malden. I'd love it
if he were depicted on the motorcycle he rode during The Great Escape.
Montgomery: I don't feel that Naptown's
importance to the jazz scene is represented enough, and Wes Montgomery's talent
stands at the center of that.
Porter: Though he was thoroughly embarrassed to ever admit he was born of
circus folk in Peru, his body of songs is the cornerstone of the Great American
Songbook. He beats out Hoagy Carmichael, who passed
out on my mom's shoulder during the 1968 Rose Bowl game.
Pyle: Way before embedded journalists accompanied the military in 2003, there was Ernie Pyle, right there on the front lines
covering WWII from the foot soldiers' point of view. He beats out George Ade
and Kin Hubbard for his bravery, grit and solid reporting.
Skelton: Whether vaudeville, radio, film or television, America's clown
lived to make people laugh.
Steele: Thanks to the likes of this artist and teacher, The Hoosier Group defined
American impressionism and Brown County landed an artist colony.
Tarkington: After WWII, Both Tarkington won two Pulitzer Prizes and was the
most famous person in America. Today
he's largely forgotten. While fellow Hoosier Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie is more widely taught in
schools, Tarkington's influence remains at the namesake of the neighborhood
where he lived and his character Penrod lending his
name to the annual September art fair.
"Major" Taylor: At the turn of the last century, this cyclist was
the highest paid professional athlete and famous worldwide. He died in poverty
and was originally buried in an unmarked grave. Yes, I know the velodrome was
named after him, but Major Taylor deserves more recognition.
Turtle: This war chief of the Miami tribe contributed to the biggest
Native-American victory against American forces, and later showed great skill
Wallace: Son of a governor, lawyer, Civil War general, author of Ben Hur and
architect of his own study, Lew Wallace exemplified a Hoosier version of the