Bicentennial Legends

Bicentennial Unity Plaza Mural

Celebrating the lives and legacies of 43 Hoosiers who helped shape Indianapolis between 1820 and 2020.

The fourth and final mural in the City of Indianapolis Bicentennial Legends Series features 43 portraits of Hoosier legends on the east wall of the Steak ‘n Shake building overlooking the new Bicentennial Unity Plaza.

Chicago-based artist Anna Murphy painted the mural between July and October 2023.

This project is a partnership between Indy Arts Council, Pacers Sports & Entertainment, Indiana Humanities, and the Marion County Capital Improvement Board.



Bicentennial Unity Plaza Mural


Anna Murphy

Anna Murphy is a Chicago based artist, with a professional studio in the Pilsen neighborhood. She specializes in realistic figurative and portraiture painting, showing in galleries in the surrounding area as well as working internationally. Combining her fine art quality and intricate detail level of her traditional painting background into the public art world gives her murals a unique quality.

Bicentennial Unity Plaza Mural

Artist Assistant

Phyllicia Carr

Phyllicia Carr is a self-taught painter, photographer and graphic designer from Indianapolis. Carr’s paintings are inspired from vivid dreams, dialogue, research, and deep introspective revelation. Her work encompasses realism and some abstract elements while highlight her subjects with nature. Using her intuition as a guide, she explores identity, vulnerability, and healing for marginalized communities.

Meet the Poet

  • Meet the Poet

  • We Are Here by Alyssa Gaines

Alyssa Gaines, the 6th National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, was commissioned by Indiana Humanities to write an original poem, “We Are Here,” to celebrate the Bicentennial Legends mural at Bicentennial Unity Plaza.

Gaines, a Harvard University student, was the 2022 Midwest Youth Poet Laureate and also Indianapolis’ inaugural Youth Poet Laureate. She grew up on Indy’s Eastside and graduated from Park Tudor School.

Gaines’ work balances hardship and triumph and gives attention to natural and religious images and the musicality of language, rooted in the desire that her communities are documented and represented. She is interested in educational equity and fine arts access & accessibility, delivering workshops across her community.

We Are Here
by Alyssa Gaines

Is where we’re from.
Here, the poet, philanthropist, politician, the first
Black millionaire, state senator
Is history
Presidential, pharmaceutical, physical
Here is where the ideals return to a dream
And the dreamers have learned them by hands
Here is home

Rolling hills and wildflowers
Trees and tall grass
The interstate weaves through us like a story stretching
Its asphalt arms over hoosiers
Who know what it means to be proud

Of the middle of the road
Of the midwest, details
Of the often overlooked or underrated
Of the world where the world is just a seed
We make grow

We harvest
Hear the stories we remember.
And the names we cherish.
Look at the legends
Who learned through here
How alive they came to be from watching

The legend of the bank teller or the sales clerk or the woman at the grocery store
Or the stranger you meet who smiles and waves
The neighbor who opens her doors
Who advocates for the faces of her neighborhood she cares to know by name

Name he who makes music of the street sounds
Or the quiet night
Or the wind and the field and the moon
Who writes poetry in the niceties in the
Space and the race cars

Here is home
As much ours as God’s
Celebrate how we roots deep in the ground
How much we learn from the past
How we all look toward the future together
In our faces,

All those stars we know
and don’t

We call them back home.
So we see how much they look like us.
That we the heroes and the legends too
Here hometown raises us up like crops
Came from the same soil, cut from the same cloth

Here lies legendary history memorialized in the way we love our homegrown
Come here,
And hear all the stories we tell of
The buildings before you were born
And the people who made this place lived in
The stories that give us our name

Weave your thread
Stake your claim
Plant in the been-tilled dirt that’s corn-fed legends

Come here,
Where our legacy means
Go forth in our future too.

Meet the 43 Hoosiers who helped shape Indianapolis between 1820 and 2020

Bicentennial Unity Plaza Mural

  • Hoagland Howard "Hoagy" Carmichael (1899-1981) Songwriter and musician

    One of the greatest songwriters to emerge from the 20th century, Hoagland “Hoagy” Carmichael was born in Bloomington and grew up in Indianapolis. He graduated from the Indiana University School of Law and worked as an attorney for a brief period in Indianapolis before pursuing music as a full-time career. One of his most famous works, “Stardust,” was first recorded at Gennett Records in Richmond on October 31, 1927. Carmichael would go on to write hundreds of songs, including many for the stage and screen. He is now recognized as one of the first singer songwriters to utilize mass media including television, electronic microphones, and manipulated sound recordings and his work.

    Learn More
  • Mary Ellen Cable (1861-1944) Educator and civic leader

    Schoolteacher Mary Cable first arrived in Indianapolis in 1893 with her husband, also an educator. For the next 40 years, she would be an integral part of the Indianapolis Public School system as teacher, principal, and instructor of a generation of Black female elementary school teachers and principals in the then-segregated school system. Outside of the classroom, her commitment to the Black community expanded to participation in local organizations such as the philanthropic Colored Women’s Civic Club and organizing Indiana’s first chapter of the NAACP and serving as its first president.

    Learn More
  • Feliciano “Felix” Espinoza (1927-2007) Merchant and civic leader

    Born in Mexico, Espinosa came to Indianapolis in the 1950s as a railroad worker but quickly became involved in organizing and elevating a burgeoning Hispanic community. In 1958, he joined the executive board of the Club Social Mexicano and served on the state’s first Commission of Latino Affairs. Around that time, he opened what many consider Indy’s first Mexican grocery store, El Nopal Market, operating the store on the first floor of his home at 810 E. North Street until forced out by the construction of Interstate 65. In 1969, he was one of the founders of the Hispano-American Association and soon after the Hispano-American Multi-Service Center which opened just a few blocks from his former store.

    Learn More
  • Bobby “Slick” Leonard (1932-2021) Championship Pacers coach, pro basketball player, sports commentator

    In a state known for basketball, Bobby “Slick” Leonard is perhaps the best known player and coach of them all. His career began playing at IU for the Hoosiers where he was a two-time all American and a member of their championship winning team in 1953. He played in the NBA from 1954 to 1961 before transitioning to coaching. For more than a decade, Leonard coached the Indianapolis Pacers and oversaw the team’s three ABA Championships before the merger with the NBA. In retirement, Leonard return to the Pacers as a commentator, best known for his legendary call “boom, baby!“ with every successful three-point field goal.

    Learn More
  • Sam Jones (1928-2006) Civil rights leader, Community activist

    The Indianapolis Urban League was established in August 1966, and Sam Jones was chosen as the first president, a position he held until 2002. Jones had served as the Executive Director of the Urban League in Pontiac, Michigan and in Saint Paul, Minnesota previously. Once in Indianapolis, he got to work establishing the Urban League as a liaison between African American communities and city leaders and agencies that too often ignored or diminished the needs of black residents. Through his tireless advocacy, Jones worked to establish higher education scholarships, job counseling and referral services, and a host of other programs aimed at making the Urban League a “bridge builder“ in improving race relations in Indianapolis.

    Learn More
  • President Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901) 23rd President of the United States

    Benjamin Harrison came to Indianapolis as a young lawyer in the 1850s. After serving as a colonel of Indiana 70th volunteer infantry in the Civil War, he launched a political career that include a failed run for governor before a successful campaign begin for a seat in the US Congress. you who is after serving as an Indiana state senator, Harrison ran for president using what became known, as a “front porch campaign”. He lost the popular vote by more than 100,000 but hadn’t left electoral votes to win. He served one term as US president from 1889 to 1893.

    Learn More
  • Marshall “Major” Taylor (1878-1932) International cycling champion and racial justice advocate

    The first black American to become an athletic superstar, “Major” Taylor begin earning money for his cycling skills as a teenager when a local Indianapolis bicycle shop hired him as a trick rider. He started competing in 1890, quickly setting records and making headlines. Because most tracks in the city were restricted to white riders only, Taylor left Indianapolis in 1896 and over the next decade competed in cycling races around the world. In 1901, a tour of Europe saw him win 42 of 57 races and over the next decade he earned the equivalent of nearly $1 million a year in prize money and exhibition fees. Back in the US, however, the constant harassment and racial discrimination he faced led to his retirement from cycling in 1910.

    Learn More
  • William “Bill” Crawford (1936-2015) State Legislator and civic leader

    Lawmaker Bill Crawford served in the Indiana General Assembly representing District 98 in the House of Representatives from 1972 to 2020. He was the longest serving African-American state lawmaker in America, and his work resulted in a legacy ranging from the establishment of a minority teacher scholarship program, creating a Housing Trust Fund to assist people seeking affordable housing, prohibiting the execution of those diagnosed as mentally disabled, and providing millions of dollars in state funding for research into minority health issues. Crawford was also one of the founding organizers of Indiana Black Expo and Circle City Classic.

    Learn More
  • Roselyn Comer Richardson (1913-2005) Civil Rights activist and advocate

    Roselyn Richardson and her husband Henry came to Indianapolis just after World War II. While he established himself as a lawyer, and eventually state legislator, she put her education and experience as a community organizer to use and began a decades long commitment to charitable and civic organizations aimed at putting an end to discriminatory policies and practices in Indianapolis. Her most notable fight came in 1946 when her son was denied admission to the local neighborhood school because he was Black. She and her husband, along with parents of other Black students, challenged this policy with the school board and eventually changed state law. Although IPS maintained segregation by reestablishing elementary school boundaries, the Richardsons laid the groundwork for full desegregation in Indianapolis and challenged school segregation five years before the U.S. landmark case Brown v. Board of Education.

    Learn More
  • Mel Simon (1926-2009) Businessman and philanthropist; owner of the Indiana Pacers

    Melvin Simon grew up in the Bronx and came to Indianapolis as a young soldier stationed at Fort Benjamin Harrison. Following his discharge from the army, he began working in real estate, primarily shopping centers. In 1960, he formed a company alongside his brothers Herb and Fred which developed the business model for modern shopping malls. Throughout the 1970s and 80s they opened large indoor malls around the country relying on big anchor tenants like JCPenney and Sears. The idea was new and incredibly successful. In 1983, he and brother Herb Simon bought the Indianapolis Pacers and brought much needed financial stability and security to the franchise. The team remains under the family’s ownership in 2023.

    Learn More
  • John Morton-Finney (1889-1998) Attorney, educator and civil rights activist

    John Morton-Finney came to Indianapolis just shy of his 30th birthday already a husband, father, and combat veteran of World War I. He taught briefly at Shortridge before being hired as one of the original faculty members at Crispus Attucks High School in 1927 where he taught Latin, Greek, German, Spanish, and French — all languages he spoke fluently. In addition to academics, Morton-Finney was also an attorney. In one of his most notorious cases, he successfully challenged the mandatory retirement age of 66 by the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners. He was 82 years old at the time.

    Learn More
  • Mari Evans (1919-2017) Black Arts Movement poet, writer and playwright

    Ohio native Mari Evans moved to Indianapolis after college in the late 1940s and worked for the Indiana Housing Authority before joining the U.S. Civil Service. By the early 1960s she was a poet and activist strongly allied with the Black Arts Movement. In 1968, she produced and narrated a local television program on WTTV-4 called The Black Experience that ran for five years. She also began teaching African-American literature courses at IUPUI and publishing her poetry, prose, and plays. Over the course of the next 50 years, Evans established herself as a major figure in American poetry and an indefatigable advocate for the Black community.

    Learn More
  • Rev. Andrew J. Brown, Jr. (1921-1996) Pastor and civil rights leader

    Andrew Brown Jr.  found his calling after serving in World War II and surviving a near fatal wound. At the war’s end, he moved his family to Indianapolis and became pastor of St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church, a position he held from 1947 to 1990. A friend and colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Brown marched alongside King in Selma and Washington DC while relentlessly fighting for civil rights locally. This included a Voter Registration Drive among Black residents during the 1963 election that resulted in the election of two Black council members and a major shift in local politics. Brown originated and hosted the local Saturday morning radio program Operation Breadbasket and was one of the primary organizers of Indiana Black Expo in 1970.

    Learn More
  • Julia Carson (1938-2007) U.S. Representative and state legislator

    Crispus Attucks graduate Julia Carson was working as a secretary for the United Auto Workers local chapter #550 in 1965 when Congressman Andrew Jacobs, Jr. hired her as a case worker for his district and set in motion Carson’s own political career. She ran and won as a Democratic Party candidate for the Indiana House of Representatives in 1972 and 1974, before being elected to the Indiana Senate in 1976. She served at the state level until Jacobs endorsed her as his successor in Congress when he retired in 1997. She won that election and became the first African-American and first woman from Indianapolis to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. She was re-elected to that position five more times before her death in 2007.

  • Wes Montgomery (1923-1968) Jazz Guitarist

    Born John Leslie Montgomery in Indianapolis, “Wes” first began playing professionally when offered a job with Lionel Hampton’s Big Band from 1948 to 1950. After returning home, Montgomery made a name for himself in the clubs along Indiana Avenue. Along with his brothers Monk and Buddy,  the Wes Montgomery trio began touring and recording in the late 1950s. After releasing several albums on the Riverside label, he was signed to Verve and his 1965 album won a Grammy award. His next album, “A Day in the Life,” was the best selling jazz record of 1967. His unique style of playing earned him the reputation as one of the most original and influential jazz guitarists of all time.

    Learn More
  • Dr. Frank P. Lloyd, Sr. (1919-2002) Physician, civic leader, first Black president of Methodist Hospital

    Dr. Frank Lloyd moved to Indianapolis with his wife and children in the 1950s establishing a practice in obstetrics and gynecology. In 1963 he left private practice to take the position of Director of Medical Research at Methodist Hospital; in 1991 he became the first African American president and CEO of the hospital. In addition to his work in the medical field, Dr. Lloyd established the radio station WTLC  and was its owner from 1969 to 1981. He also joined efforts to help Black residents acquire home loans through the Midwest National Bank formed in 1972. Dr. Lloyd was a founding member of 100 Black Men, an organization dedicated to mentoring young African-American men in the city.

    Learn More
  • Herman B. Wells (1902-2000) Educational visionary; 12th president of Indiana University

    Herman Wells had a 70 year career at Indiana University Bloomington that began as an instructor in 1930. Over the next seven decades, he would rise to the role of and then chancellor and receive the credit for transforming the small rural campus into an internationally recognized institution of higher learning, research and scholarship. Wells was known as the champion of academic freedom which included supporting Alfred Kinsey’s research on sexuality. He also was a staunch opponent to racial discrimination on campus and in athletic programs.

    Learn More
  • Madam CJ Walker (1867-1919) Businesswoman, philanthropist, social activist

    Madam Walker’s rags to riches story begins in Delta, Louisiana, where she was born Sarah Breedlove. Orphan by age 7, widow by age 20, she found work as a laundress and cook moving to St. Louis, and then Colorado, in search of a better life. A scalp condition prompted her to create a hair formula that she began bottling and selling herself. As sales grew, she created the persona Madam CJ Walker and began employing women to sell her products door to door. She arrived in Indianapolis in 1910, where her small business was soon launched into a major industrial enterprise. As America’s first female, self-made millionaire, Walker was also a generous donor to charitable organizations and an important patron of Black artists.

    Learn More
  • Harriette Bailey Conn (1922-1981) Attorney and politician

    Indianapolis native Harriett Conn was a young wife and mother when she graduated from Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis in 1955 — she was also the school’s first African American female graduate. For the next 10 years she worked as the Indiana deputy attorney general before entering private practice in 1965 and being elected to the first of two terms in the Indiana House of Representatives. In 1970, the Indiana Supreme Court appointed Conn State Public Defender, the first African American and first woman to serve in this position. She served until her death in 1981.

    Learn More
  • Father Boniface Hardin (1933-2012) Social activist; founding President of Martin University

    Ordained a monk and priest in 1959, Father Boniface Hardin came to Indianapolis in 1965 after accepting the position of associate pastor at Holy Angels Parish. From the start, he was an unrelenting voice campaigning against police brutality, poverty, racial discrimination, and institutionalized racism in the form of interstate construction decimating Indianapolis Black communities. In 1970, he left parish work in order to establish the Martin Center with Sister Jane Schilling. Originally a community center, in 1977 Martin Center College was established to serve low-income and adult students on the city’s east side. Today, the school is known as Martin University and is an accredited institution offering  graduate and undergraduate degrees.

    Learn More
  • Daisy Riley Lloyd, Ph.D., D.Min (1928-2019) First African American woman to serve in the Indiana legislature

    Daisy Riley Lloyd graduated from Howard University in 1950, a short time after marrying. Her husband was a doctor who served in the army before the couple moved to Indianapolis. She quickly became involved in several community organizations and was elected to the general assembly in 1964.  Instead of seeking reelection, Lloyd detoured from politics to work in real estate. She established Northside Realty in 1968, with the aim of providing true equality in the housing market. She was a founding member of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association, served on the Commission for Higher Education and was a commissioner of the Public Housing Authority.

    Learn More
  • Willard B. “Mike” Ransom (1916-1995) Civil rights attorney and activist

    Born into one of the most prominent Black families in Indianapolis, Mike Ransom was the son of Freeman B. Ransom, namesake of the Ransom Place  historic district. After graduating from Harvard law school in 1939, the only African American in his class, he was appointed Indiana’s assistant attorney general in 1941 but just two months into his term was drafted into the US Army. Upon his return from World War II, Ransom began an active and effective commitment to civil rights reform. He rose to a leadership position at Indiana’s NAACP during the 1940s, serving as its president multiple terms. He led local protests against segregated businesses, drugstores, department stores, and even a White Castle hamburger stand. Ransom also worked for the Madam CJ Walker Company, including as the general manager, for nearly two decades.

    Learn More
  • Moy Jin Kee (1847-1914) Immigrant, merchant and civic leader

    Known in his era as the “Chinese mayor of Indianapolis,” Moy Kee immigrated to the U.S. in the 1850’s as a young boy from Guangdong Province. He and his wife settled in Indianapolis in the 1890s where they opened several businesses, including a Chinese tea store at 19 Massachusetts Avenue and a restaurant and tea house at 506 E. Washington Street. Kee’s ability to fluently speak English made him a leader within the community and helped in his role as an unofficial ambassador on many occasions. Newspapers from the time often report Kee and his wife hosting traditional events such as Lunar New Year celebrations with fireworks that amazed local Hoosiers. Moy even facilitated a royal visit by Prince Pu Lun of China.

    Learn More
  • Henry J. Richardson Jr. (1902-1983) Civil Rights Attorney and state politician

    Henry Richardson, Jr. earned his law degree from the Indiana University School of Law in 1928 and by the early 1930s was an established lawyer with an interest in politics. In 1930, he was appointed a temporary judge in the Marion County Superior Court, and in 1932 he was elected to the House of Representatives, the first African American Democrat elected to the Indiana legislature. When his own son was denied admission to the families, neighborhood school, and sent to an all black school miles away, Richardson and his wife Roselyn worked with other Indianapolis lawyers and the NAACP to end segregation in Indianapolis schools. He co-authored the bill effectively doing so in 1949, which was eventually signed by the governor. In 1953 he helped put an end to segregated public housing in Evansville Indiana as legal counsel for the Indiana NAACP.

    Learn More
  • Carolyn “Carrie” Barnes Ross (1883-1918) Educator; Suffragist; Civil Rights Activist

    Barnes Ross came to Indianapolis after graduating from Columbia University and briefly teaching at Tuskegee University. She quickly became involved outside the classroom and was the first leader for the city’s Black Camp Fire Girls, secretary of the local NAACP, and a member of the Equal Suffrage Association—the first Indianapolis women’s suffrage group to reach out to Black women. In 1912, she became president of Branch No. 7, the first Black women’s suffrage group in the city. She married dentist Hubert Ross in 1916 and the two moved to Boston, where she continued her activism for women’s voting rights.

    Learn More
  • George Pheldon Stewart (1874-1924) Civil rights leader and co-founder of the Indianapolis Recorder newspaper

    George Stewart grew up in Vincennes and learned the printing trade from his brother Charles. He came to Indianapolis in 1894 and started a one page advertising circular focused on Black businesses and church announcements, which he distributed at various churches around the city. In 1897, he expand the circular into a full-fledged newspaper focused on the Black community locally and national news related to African-Americans renaming it the Indianapolis Recorder. The newspaper remained in the Stewart family until 1988, and is still published in 2023 — making it one of the oldest Black newspapers in the country.

    Learn More
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007) Literary icon

    Writer Kurt Vonnegut produced a staggering amount of work over his 50 year career including more than a dozen novels in addition to short story collections, plays, and non-fiction. His best known work, “Slaughterhouse Five” was his sixth novel and the one that finally brought him critical and commercial success. Based on his experiences as a prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany during the Second World War, the book was published in 1969 and immediately made him an icon of the growing antiwar movement of the Vietnam era. Since his death, the author’s popularity has continued to increase thanks in large part to his uniquely Hoosier blend of satire, dark comedy, and science fiction.

    Learn More
  • May Wright Sewall (1844-1920) Educator, Suffragist, Civic Leader

    May Wright Sewell was an educator and activist who contributed significantly to the civic and social life of Indianapolis from the 1880s until her death in 1920. She founded the Girls Classical School, the city’s first college prep school for young women, and was an early suffragist at the national level working alongside  friends Susan B, Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Locally,  she was one of the founders of the Indianapolis Art Association, predecessor of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Herron School of Art, as well as the Indianapolis Propylaeum. Though she devoted her adult life to women’s rights, she died just one month prior to the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

    Learn More
  • James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) The “Hoosier Poet”

    At the height of the Victorian era, no American poet was more popular than James Whitcomb Riley. Born in Greenfield m he came to Indianapolis as a young man and began his career as a sign maker. But an endorsement from none other than Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gave him the encouragement needed to pursue writing full-time. By the 1880s, he was the most popular poet in America and his readings packed theaters from coast to coast. Much of his work was written in dialect and poems like “The Raggedy Man“ and “Little Orphant Annie“ have endeared him to generations of Hoosiers for more than a century and a half.

    Learn More
  • Robert Brokenburr (1886-1974) Attorney, civil rights leader, and state legislator

    Robert Brokenburr came to Indianapolis in 1910, a year after receiving his law degree from Howard University. In addition to being Madam CJ Walker’s attorney, Brown successfully litigated several major civil rights cases that put an end to discriminatory practices such as the city ordinance dividing Indianapolis into racially segregated zones and local businesses refusing to allow Black patrons. After three unsuccessful campaigns for a seat in the Indiana House of Representatives between 1912 and 1934, Brokenburr was elected to the Indiana Senate in 1940 and was the first African-American to serve in that body. He served four additional terms through the 1960s.

    Learn More
  • Amelia R. Keller (1871-1943) Doctor, medical pioneer and suffragist

    Amelia Keller graduated from Indianapolis High School, attended the Woman’s Medical College of Chicago, and earned her medical degree from the Central College of Physicians and Surgeons in Indianapolis in 1893. Two years later, she established her medical practice in Indianapolis, becoming one of the first female physicians in the city. In addition to her medical practice, Keller was very involved in various community organizations. She served as the first president of the Woman’s Franchise League of Indiana from 1911 to 1917 and as editor of Citizens League of Indiana’s monthly magazine, The Citizen. Keller was the first female paid faculty member at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

    Learn More
  • Rabbi Morris Marcus Feuerlicht (1879-1959) Co-founder, Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis

    Rabbi Morris Feuerlicht was born in Hungary in 1879 and immigrated to the United States as a child. He attended schools in Cincinnati and Chicago before coming to Indiana in 1904. Shortly after his arrival, he co-founded the Jewish Federation of Indianapolis to assist newly arrived Jewish immigrants. He served as senior Rabbi of the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation from 1907 to 1946 and was the first editor-in-chief of the Indiana Jewish Chronicle. Feuerlicht believed in unifying the Indianapolis community and was committed to many social justice issues, including publicly speaking out against the Ku Klux Klan and supporting the creation of the Red Cross in Marion County.


  • William Hudnut (1932-2016) 45th mayor of Indianapolis

    William Hudnut’s career serving the people of Indianapolis  began in 1964 as a young minister at the city’s Second Presbyterian Church, followed by one term in Congress representing the 11th district from 1973 to 1975. After losing his bid for reelection to Congress, he was chosen as the Republican candidate for mayor after Richard Lugar left the office. He served four terms, making him the city’s longest serving mayor (1976-1992), and is credited with the transformation of downtown Indianapolis which was anchored by the arrival of the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis in 1984.

    Learn More
  • Calvin Fletcher (1798-1866) Attorney, banker and farmer; Indiana state senator

    Namesake of the city’s Historic Fletcher Place District, Calvin Fletcher was an original settler of Indianapolis who left his mark on the city as a lawyer, banker,  land owner, and diarist. He was appointed prosecuting attorney and the overseer of the poor for Marion County when the city was established in 1822,  and served in the Indiana State Senate briefly, from 1826 to 1833. Perhaps one of Fletcher’s greatest contributions to the city are his diaries, which he kept for decades and then donated to the historical society. It is an incomparable record of Indianapolis from its founding until the Civil War.

    Learn More
  • Richard Green Lugar (1932-2019) Indianapolis mayor, Indiana senator

    Indianapolis native Richard Lugar graduated Shortridge High School in 1950. After college, he served in the U.S. Navy before returning home in 1960 to join the family business. He was elected to the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners and served from 1964 and 1967 when he was chosen by Republican city leaders as their preferred candidate for mayor. He served in that capacity from 1968 until 1976 during which time he orchestrated the consolidation of city and county government into the single entity known as Unigov. Lugar lost his first bid for a seat in US Congress to incumbent Birch Bayh in 1974. Two years later, he was successfully elected and would go on to become Indiana’s longest serving senator with more than 35 years in office.

    Learn More
  • Anton “Tony” Hulman, Jr. (1901-1977) Owner, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

    Tony Hulman was a young World War II veteran helping to grow his family’s Terre Haute grocery business and real estate portfolio when he purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1945. The track had been closed for several years following the war. Driver Wilber  Shaw and WWI flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker successfully persuaded Holman to buy and re-open the track after a series of repairs and improvements. Following Shaw’s death in 1954, Holman took over as president and began one of the longest traditions of the track — starting the race with his infamous phrase, “Gentlemen, start your engines.”

    Learn More
  • Edna Martin (1897-1974) Civic leader and community advocate

    Edna Martin grew up in Indianapolis and graduated from Shortridge High School. She attended Butler University for several years where she studied music. It was following the death of her young daughter, however, that she felt called to serve her community with her whole heart in a full-time capacity. Martin first opened a small daycare in 1941 in the Martindale Brightwood neighborhood. By 1945 it had grown to a full-time ministry supported by churches throughout the state and providing education, recreation, and relief for those in need. A grant from the Lilly Foundation in 1965 helped build a new center and expand the programming. Nearly 50 years after her death, the community center named after Edna Martin continues to serve those in need according to her vision.

    Learn More
  • John Wooden (1910-2010) Championship NCAA basketball coach known as “the Wizard of Westwood”

    Coach Wooden grew up in rural Indiana, becoming a breakout basketball star in high school playing in Martinsville for a team that went to the state championship three years running, winning it twice. From there, he went to Purdue where he earned himself a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame after making All-American three out of his four years in college. He was a high school basketball coach in South Bend, Indiana before being called up for service in World War II. Afterwards, he accepted a position to coach at UCLA beginning in 1948 and over the next 25 years took the team from the worst in college basketball to the winningest in history.

    Learn More
  • Josiah Lilly Jr. (1893-1966) Businessman and philanthropist; co-founder of Lilly Endowment Inc.

    Josiah Kirby Lilly, Jr. (J.K. Jr.) went to work at his grandfather’s company in 1914, following his father and brother. During his more than 50-year career with the company, he served as a vice president, president, and chairman of the board. While J.K. Jr. was a successful leader and businessman, he is especially remembered for his philanthropic efforts. He was a co-founder of Lilly Endowment in 1937, along with his father and brother, and many of his personal collecting interests formed the basis of donations to educational and cultural institutions. In the 1950s he donated his significant rare book and manuscript collection to Indiana University, which helped form the core of the university’s Lilly Library in Bloomington. Around the same time, he donated a large piece of land on the northwest side of Indianapolis to Purdue University that would eventually become Eagle Creek Park, one of the largest city parks in the country. When he died in 1966, his family’s estate, known as Oldfields, was donated to the Herron School of Art to be used as the site of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which opened in 1970.

    Learn More
  • Josiah Lilly Sr. (1861-1948) Businessman and philanthropist; co-founder of Lilly Endowment Inc.

    Josiah Kirby Lilly (J.K.) was just 14 years old when he joined his father’s business, one he would be involved with for over 70 years. After completing a course of study at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, J.K. returned to the business as superintendent of the Lilly laboratories and committed to bringing the best scientific talent to the company. This commitment led to the company’s developing the first insulin for the commercial market along with other life-saving medicines. Like his father, J.K. believed in giving back to his community, and he did so with great frequency. He was a key supporter of the Community Fund, a predecessor of the United Way of Central Indiana, and many other local charitable and educational organizations. In 1937, he co-founded Lilly Endowment along with his two sons, Eli and J.K. Jr. When he died in 1948, J.K. left a significant portion of his estate to Lilly Endowment, making it one of the nation’s largest private foundations at the time.

    Learn More
  • Colonel Eli Lilly (1838-1898) Founder of Eli Lilly and Company

    Eli Lilly opened his first drugstore in Greencastle in 1860 following a course of study at Asbury College, now DePauw University, and a three-year apprenticeship in Lafayette. A year later he joined the Union Army and served with distinction throughout the Civil War as an officer, leaving service at the close of hostilities in 1865. After working in several other professional endeavors, he finally settled in Indianapolis and established Eli Lilly and Company in May of 1876. The company he founded was successful enough that he turned daily operations over to Josiah, his son, in 1890 so he could focus his attention on “building one of the great inland cities of the American continent.” Colonel Lilly’s legacy of charity and love of community continues to be visible throughout the city despite his insistence that such efforts be done quietly.

    Learn More
  • Eli Lilly (1885-1977) Businessman and philanthropist; co-founder of Lilly Endowment Inc.

    Named for his successful grandfather, Eli Lilly attended the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, finishing in 1907. He immediately joined the family’s business and served the company in a variety of capacities, including vice president, president, and chairman of the board. Over the course of his career at Eli Lilly and Company, he championed straight line manufacturing processes and continued his father’s efforts to bring scientific talent to Indianapolis. Mr. Eli, as he was known in his later years, had many interests outside the business and was actively involved in local history, archeology, and architectural preservation. As a co-founder of Lilly Endowment, Mr. Eli, along with his wife Ruth, was instrumental in solidifying the family’s interest in giving back to the community, especially in the areas of education, religion, and community development. Upon his death in 1977, he left most of his estate to charity, including gifts designated for the Indianapolis Museum of Art, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the Indiana Historical Society, Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral, and Conner Prairie among many others.

    Learn More
  • William G. “Bill” Mays (1945-2014) Industrialist and civic leader

    For decades, Bill Mays was known as the most successful Black businessman in the state of Indiana. He received his MBA from IU in 1973 and began work at Cummins soon after. In 1980 he founded the Mays Chemical Company which went on to become one of the largest chemical distributors in North America. In the 1990s, he purchased the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper, as well as majority ownership in several Indiana radio and television stations. Mays was a cofounder of the Circle City Classic, the first African-American chair of the campaign for the United Way of Central Indiana, and served on the board of the Indiana University Foundation, as well as the Dean’s Advisory Board for the Kelley School of Business.

    Learn More

Explore more Indy Arts Council programs

Bicentennial Unity Plaza Mural