Basketball legend Jerry Harkness publishes memoir with hopes to inspire, unify

Jerry Harkness' words, those stories and lessons from his fascinating life now living on in the form of a memoir.

"You know, I'm 78 and I sit back and I think of my life and I decided to put it in words,” the 1963 National Champion and former Pacer said.

Last spring, Loyola Chicago’s run in the tournament brought Jerry back to his Rambler days, as the captain of the National Championship team where he helped break down racial barriers in a game against a segregated Mississippi State team.

That game led Harkness to form a lifelong friendship with Mississippi State's Joe Dan Gold.

"We got to know each other and got to be real good friends, me with the captain,” he said of Gold. "And I never would have gotten that, it's almost like  we don't give each other a chance."

That brought back more memories to his days growing up in Harlem, where he wasn't always a basketball standout.

"Then I started thinking about playgrounds when I played at the beginning and how bad I was and I got picked at the end,” Jerry admitted.

“Nobody wanted me or they'd say 'Oh alright, I will take Jerry,” he said with a laugh.

The book includes Jerry's chance meeting with a pivotal player in desegregating sports.

"Then I think about going to the YMCA, and in my senior year this guy says, ‘Hey, you're not bad,’ and it happens to be Jackie Robinson,” Jerry explained of how he decided to try out for basketball. “I go out for the team and we win everything and I start and then I get the scholarship to Loyola."

And he hopes his stories of overcoming adversity and working for change are as valuable to others as they have been to him.

"We can make it together, we have done and we have progressed and there's no doubt about it but we got to make sure nobody fights against that."

Wednesday evening, Jerry will host an author discussion at the Center for Black Literature and Culture at the Indianapolis Public Library.

The event is free and open to the public but you are asked to register ahead of the event. For more information or to register, click here.

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