Intramural Sports Center at Indiana University Renamed to Honor a Racial Pioneer and a Racial Segregationist

The Ora Wildermuth Intramural Center on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington was built in 1971. It was named after a man who served as chair of the university’s board of trustees from 1938 to 1949. He died in 1964.

Last year some old letters written by Wildermuth were discovered. In a 1945 letter to a university administrator, Wildermuth wrote, “I am and shall always remain absolutely and utterly opposed to social intermingling of the colored race with the white.”

In a second letter Wildermuth wrote to university president Herman B. Welles in 1948, he stated, “The average of the black race as to intelligence, economic status, and industry is so far below the white average that it seems to me futile to build up hope for a great future.”

When the letters came to light, current university president Michael A. McRobbie asked the 25-member All University Committee on Names to consider changing the name of the intramural center. The committee concluded that although Wildermuth’s views were offensive, it would not be right to judge him by today’s standards.

As a compromise the committee voted to change the name of the building to the William L. Garrett-Ora L. Wildermuth Fieldhouse. Garrett was the first African American to play intercollegiate basketball for Indiana University. He died in 1974 at the age of 45.