INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Long before he served with distinction in the U.S. Senate, sought to disarm the nuclear stockpile of the Soviet Union, counseled presidents and championed American farmers, Richard Lugar was a Shortridge High School student who grew up to serve on the IPS Board of School Commissioners, remade city/county government and became “The father of modern Indianapolis,” according to the historian who has studied the legendary mayor’s career.
“His vision, his drive, his ambition, fundamentally reshaped the city,” said Dr. Ted Franz, curator of the University of Indianapolis Mayoral Archives.
During a wreath laying ceremony on the appropriately named Richard G. Lugar Plaza outside the City County Building from where then-Mayor Lugar once led the city, the man who now sits in the corner officer on the 25th floor office said he hopes to follow his mayoral mentor’s example.
“Senator Lugar believed that it was only by uniting to solve tough issues, divided perhaps in thought but united in a common purpose for a common effort,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett who recalled Lugar’s last visit to the city to witness the plaza’s dedication, “because that day our community was reminded that vision and leadership and a deep love of this place we call home… that can be enough to spark the kind of change that kick starts a city’s greatest years.”
Lugar began his public life with election to the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners in 1964.
“He worked with people of different backgrounds in order to do some very basic things,” said Frantz, “like get latchkey children breakfast before school. That was something you would think would be completely uncontroversial but city leaders at the time said, ‘No that’s federal money, we don’t want to touch it.”
After Lugar led the way in desegregating Indianapolis public schools, he was elected mayor for the first of two terms and set about unifying city and county government.
“When he took over as mayor in 1967 you could see the divisions even within the building,” said Frantz as he stood on Lugar Plaza outside the CCB. “Even being in the same place, county entities and city entities weren’t working together. UNIGOV helped to streamline a lot of those things so that government could work more efficiently and you had a stronger mayor advocating for Indianapolis.”
Also this week, the public gathered at the Indiana Statehouse to honor the life of another former Indiana Senator who recently passed away, Birch Bayh, who died in March at the age of 91.
Family and state leaders reflected on Bayh's legacy of public service, including Governor Eric Holcomb, House Speaker Brian Bosma, Congressman André Carson, Purdue President Mitch Daniels, former Congressman Baron Hill, and Federal District Court Chief Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson.
Bayh won his first Senate term in 1962 and spent almost 30 years representing Indiana.
He wrote the landmark federal Title IX law banning discrimination against women in college admissions and sports.
He also sponsored the 25th and 26th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution while serving as a U.S. Senator.