Bill Garrett was a local legend, named Indiana Mr. Basketball in 1947 and becoming the first African-American basketball player in the Big Ten. So Indiana University naturally wanted to honor him by renaming the arena where he once played. There were two problems with this. One, the arena already had a name, so it would have become the unwieldy William L. Garrett-Ora. L. Wildermuth Intramural Center. Two, Ora Wildermuth hated black people.
Wildermuth was IU’s board president in 1945 when he opposed the integration of the school. Hoosier trustees managed to ignore this fact when they approved the name change last week, but once Bill Garrett’s widow heard about it, she wasn’t having any of it.
“From the very start it has been our goal to recognize Bill Garrett and honor his achievements at IU,” university vice president Terry Clapacs said. “We believed that we had the blessing and support of the Garrett family, but we now have learned that is not the case. So the university will respect their wishes and we will not proceed with this decision.”
Betty Garrett says no one asked for her blessing, and now says “It’s not going to happen.” And good for her. It’s no honor to have your name next to that of someone who, if he had his druthers, would have kept you and your kind out of his university.
Betty Garrett says Bill should be remembered by those who followed him.
“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.”
Indiana is disgraced by even suggesting it.