Family establishes educational foundation in Katie Hall's memory

2013-02-15T19:30:00Z Family establishes educational foundation in Katie Hall's memoryLauri Harvey Keagle, (219) 852-4311

The family of the late Katie Hall, the Gary politician responsible for the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday, has established a foundation in her memory aimed at honoring public service and promoting education.

Attorney John Henry Hall, Katie Hall's widower, said he and his daughter, Junifer Hall, created the Katie Hall Educational Foundation about six months ago.

"The goal is to really impress upon young people to develop educational and other skills to the best of their abilities," he said.

Katie Hall was the first black woman from the region to serve in the state Legislature and Indiana's first black member of Congress. She was the author and sponsor of the legislation that created Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday.

She died Feb. 20, 2012, at age 73 after a long illness.

Former Gary Mayor Gordon Hatcher and former U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar will be the first recipients of the Katie Hall Public Service Award at an April 6 luncheon at Marquette Park in Gary. The luncheon, hosted by the foundation, will be the group's first public event.

Hatcher nominated Hall, who was an Indiana state senator at the time, to fill the congressional seat left vacant after Adam Benjamin Jr. died in 1982.

Lugar was selected for the award in part because of his early willingness to cross party lines and co-sponsor the King day legislation, John Henry Hall said.

The foundation serves all of Northwest Indiana. Students from Gary and Valparaiso have written essays on Harriet Tubman for an essay contest. Winners will receive monetary prizes at the April luncheon.

"My wife was a local educator in the Gary public school system for over 35 years," Hall said. "I think she would be elated that we had enough of her love and service to humanity and young people in particular to move on."

Katie Hall's glowing public service record was tarnished in 2002 when a federal grand jury indicted her and her daughter, Junifer Hall, on charges of mail fraud, extortion and racketeering. Both entered not guilty pleas and took the case to a jury trial, which ended when a plea agreement was announced.

The agreement spared Katie Hall time in prison, but her daughter was sentenced to serve 16 months.

The women said in the agreement that while Katie Hall was Gary city clerk and Junifer Hall was her second-in-command, the mother-daughter pair extorted thousands of dollars in campaign cash from employees.

Those employees, many of whom were low-income single mothers, refused to contribute campaign cash and were subsequently fired, according to the plea agreement.

John Henry Hall fought to have his wife pardoned in the years leading up to her death.

For him, the last year without his wife "has been a tough battle."

"I look back on the good times we had together and the travels and working together as a team," he said. "We traveled in Africa, Europe and this country as well, the Caribbean," he said.

The Halls were married for 54.5 years, "the same as my mother and father," Hall said.

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