INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis will celebrate the opening of newly developed outdoor sand volleyball and basketball courts with a three-part dedication ceremony honoring two icons of local basketball history: the Lockefield Gardens Dust Bowl and the Crispus Attucks 1955 state high school champions.
Titled “A Championship Tribute,” the dedication of the IUPUI Campus Recreation Outdoor Facility will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 1. Activities will take place at the facility, at the northwest corner of Blake Street and West North Street, and at Hine Hall, formerly the University Place Conference Center, 850 W. Michigan St. The tribute is free and open to the public.
Basketball legends Oscar Robertson, John Gipson and Bill Hampton, three members of the 1955 championship Attucks team, will be special guests of honor. The 1955 team was the nation’s first all-black team to win a state title and the first Indianapolis team to win the Indiana boy’s state title. Crispus Attucks also won the 1956 state championship.
Tribute activities will include a symposium featuring Robertson, Gipson and Hampton as panelists and the unveiling of a plaque honoring the Dust Bowl — the Lockefield Gardens basketball court so-named because it was originally a dirt playground. The court became a community hot-spot as the site of pickup games and an annual tournament featuring the best of the city’s high school and college-age players.
The tribute will also include a reception with members of the current Crispus Attucks team as guests.
“This month marks the 60th anniversary of the first of two consecutive Indiana state basketball championships for Crispus Attucks High School,” Tralicia Lewis, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, said. “The Tigers, many of whom lived in Lockefield Gardens, learned the game at the legendary ‘Dust Bowl,’ a basketball proving ground that was located near an area now occupied by the Campus Recreation Outdoor Facility. ‘A Championship Tribute’ provides the university with an opportunity to pay tribute to players that learned the game in our neighborhood and to inform students of the history of our campus.”
Given the racial climate of the 1950s, the Attucks team experienced overt discrimination on their road to the state championship. Following both their 1955 and 1956 wins, they were denied the traditional Monument Circle victory celebration held for previous state championship teams.
Robertson, Gipson and Hampton, along with Fred Robinson, a 1960 Crispus Attucks graduate and current president of the National Crispus Attucks Alumni Association of Indiana, will discuss their basketball and life experiences during the symposium moderated by Malcolm Moran, director of the National Sports Journalism Center at IUPUI.
“Our hope is for the discussion of the 1955 Crispus Attucks championship season to go beyond the well-documented achievements of the players,” Moran said. “We are eager to hear about their lives as young adults (and the) focal point of the state in a very different racial climate, as they experienced the first of consecutive state championship seasons.”
The tribute opens with a 30-minute program that includes a ribbon cutting, unveiling of the Dust Bowl plaque and remarks by Robertson and IUPUI Chancellor Charles R. Bantz.
“Installation of the plaque is another step along the path of celebrating the historic and living relationships between our neighborhood and IUPUI,” Bantz said. “The naming of the houses in the Riverwalk Apartments, the historic signs on campus, the oral history of the neighborhood (‘The Price of Progress’) and the new art that will be placed on the Cultural Trail have made significant steps on the path.”
The schedule for the Championship Tribute is:
3 to 3:30 p.m.: Dedication of IUPUI Campus Recreation Outdoor Facility and unveiling of Dust Bowl historical marker, at the facility
3:35 to 4 p.m.: Reception in Hine Hall
4 to 5 p.m.: Symposium in Hine Hall Auditorium
The IUPUI Division of Student Affairs and the National Sports Journalism Center are sponsors of the event.
Groups of 10 or more attending the panel must register by March 25.