INDIANAPOLIS | A street running through the heart of Gary soon could be renamed to honor a late mayor whose heart pulsed with the rhythm of the city he loved.
An Indiana Senate committee approved a proposal Tuesday urging the state Department of Transportation to rename Fifth Avenue, also known as U.S. 20, through Gary to commemorate former Mayor Rudy Clay, who died June 4, 2013. He was 77.
Clay led Gary from 2006 through 2011 and navigated the city through a period of financial distress caused by state changes to tax laws that reduced the city's revenue. Clay's budget decisions helped put Gary on a stronger financial foundation for the future.
Prior to serving as mayor, Clay was Lake County recorder, a member of the Lake County Council, a member of the Lake County Commission and an Indiana state senator.
During his time in the state Senate he fought against discriminatory hiring practices, sought to establish a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and, in 1973, helped negotiate an end to a prisoner standoff at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City.
State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, sponsor of the proposal to rename Fifth Avenue for Clay, said of Clay's many accomplishments, he was proudest of leading the city he grew up in.
David King Jr., a Gary resident now attending Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said he was amazed by Clay's kindness and devotion to the city when they first met in the mayor's office in 2011.
"His passion was to serve the people, to help the people and to grow a better Gary for the people," King said. "He was definitely a trailblazer in our hearts and he continues to inspire me."
The renaming proposal, supported by current Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, must clear a few additional procedural hurdles, but is expected to be approved by the General Assembly.