HAMMOND — They were heroes on the basketball court and on Civil War battlefields. On Thursday at the Indiana Welcome Center, they were enshrined as South Shore Legends.
The 11th edition of South Shore Wall of Legends inductees include the Gary Roosevelt and Crispus Attucks basketball teams, who competed for the 1955 state championship in Indianapolis. It was the first time in U.S. history two basketball teams from African American high schools faced each other in a basketball state title game.
Inductee Lewis “Lew” Wallace was a lawyer, Civil War Union general, New Mexico territory governor and author of “Ben-Hur, a Tale of the Christ,” published in 1880. The popularity of the subject and subsequent film versions made the story the “Star Wars” of its time, said John Davies, Wall of Legends project coordinator as he presented the newly honor.
In Starke County, Wallace found inspiration to write some of his most important books. Gary’s Lew Wallace High School bears the name of the prolific Indiana author, whose book will be adapted for film once again in 2016.
Civil War history took center stage again Thursday with the induction of the 20th Indiana Volunteer Infantry.
“From President Abraham Lincoln’s call for able-bodied Union Army volunteers in 1861 to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House in 1865, fighting Hoosiers of the 20th Indiana Volunteer Infantry were present and accounted for on the forefront of Civil War history,” said nominator Marc Chase, Civil War enthusiast and Times investigative editor.
“Region men once walked on our streets in Crown Point, Lowell, Merrillville, Valparaiso and LaPorte,” he said. “Today, they’re well represented in the pioneer cemeteries of Northwest Indiana, gone but not forgotten.”
A squad of Civil War re-enactors from the 20th Indiana, muskets in hand, accepted the Wall of Legends honor from Chase, who was dressed as an era war correspondent.
Candidates for the South Shore honor undergo a rigorous vetting by regional judges based upon the values of exploration and courage, creativity and innovation. Stephen G. McShane, of Calumet Regional Archives at Indiana University Northwest, is consultant to the nomination committee.
He said the selection committee conducts two votes, and 2 or 3 people or groups are inducted per year.
Roosevelt, Wallace and the 20th Indiana, the 63rd through 65th inductees, join Region luminaries such as Michael Jackson, Oscar Robertson, Karl Malden and Congressional Medal of Honor winner PFC Frank Ono on the wall.
Also at the ceremony, Wall of Legends Scholar Brittany A. Penny, a Purdue North Central nursing student, accepted a $1,000 scholarship courtesy of First Midwest Bank.