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Visit the Indiana History Blog to learn more about Bill Garrett and the integration of Big Ten basketball.
Segregation was rampant when African American Bill Garrett led Shelbyville to 1947 state high school basketball title. At the time, an unwritten rule barred blacks from Big Ten basketball. Faburn DeFrantz and Indianapolis black leaders worked with IU president Herman B Wells to give Garrett a chance at IU. Garrett's 1948 varsity debut directly challenged Big Ten ban.
Garrett’s IU years saw parts of campus desegregated, but in the Big Ten he never played with or against another black player. He graduated in 1951 as an All-American, with IU’s career scoring record. His achievements helped create opportunities for other black players in the Midwest. Named coach at Indianapolis Crispus Attucks in 1957, his team won the 1959 state title.
Segregation was rampant when African American Bill Garrett led Shelbyville to 1947 state high school basketball title. At the time an unwritten rule barred blacks from Big Ten basketball. Faburn DeFrantz and Indianapolis black leaders worked with IU president Herman B Wells to give Garrett a chance at IU. Garrett's 1948 varsity debut directly challenged Big Ten ban.
Garrett’s IU years saw parts of campus desegregated, but in the Big Ten he never played with or against another black player. He graduated in 1951 as an All-American, with IU’s career scoring record. His achievements helped create opportunities for other black players in the Midwest. Named coach at Indianapolis Crispus Attucks in 1957, his team won the 1959 state title.
*For detailed information on Bill Garrett and the integration of Big Ten basketball in the late 1940s and early 1950s, see Tom Graham and Rachel Graham Cody, Getting Open: The Unknown Story of Bill Garrett and the Integration of College Basketball (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006).
*For information on the Big Ten Conference see "Big Ten History" provided by the Big Ten Conference Official Site. This conference became the Big Nine in 1946 when the University of Chicago withdrew its membership. In 1949, Michigan State College (now Michigan State University) joined the conference, and it again assumed the name the Big Ten. The "Big Ten" is used throughout the marker text and annotations for consistency.
*All issues of the Indianapolis Recorder were accessed via Hoosier Sate Chronicles unless otherwise noted.
 Charles E. Harrell to Croan Greenough, May 9, 1940, “Negroes and Jews Statistics at IU and Negro Misc.,” 1940-41, Folder 1, Collection C213.414, President’s Office Records, Indiana University Archives, submitted by applicant; “5-Man State Board; Open Tournaments,” Indianapolis Recorder, February 15, 1941, 1, 3, accessed IUPUI Digital Collections; The Indiana High School Athletic Association Thirty-Eighth Annual Handbook and Report of the Board of Control, 1941, 154, copy in Arthur L. Trester marker file, Indiana Historical Bureau; The Indiana High School Athletic Association Thirty-Ninth Annual Handbook and Report of the Board of Control, 1942, 150, copy in Arthur L. Trester marker file; Ora L. Wildermuth to Ward G. Biddle, November 19, 1945, letter, accessed Indiana University Archives, Negro File, submitted by applicant; Emma Lou Thornbrough, “Breaking Racial Barriers to Public Accommodations in Indiana, 1935 to 1963,” Indiana Magazine of History, 83, no. 4 (December 1987): 301-343, 302-303, 310, accessed Indiana Magazine of History Online,; Stanley Warren, “The Other Side of Hoosier Hysteria: Segregation, Sports, and the IHSAA,” Black History News & Notes (November 1993), accessed Indiana State Library.
On May 9, 1940, Charles E. Harrell, Assistant Registrar at Indiana University, wrote to Croan Greenough, Assistant to the President at Indiana University, to report on the conditions of African American students on the IU campus and in the Bloomington area. The letter shed light on the racial discrimination and segregation that existed at the school throughout much of the 1940s. Black students at IU were prohibited from living in university dormitories, dined in a separate cafeteria, and were denied use of most of the facilities of the Union Building. In town, the situation was not any better. The report noted that blacks were forced to sit in the back of movie theaters and were denied access to many dance halls and restaurants. On November 19, 1945, Ora L. Wildermuth, a member of the Board of Trustees for Indiana University, underscored the discrimination of the period, writing:
I have no objection to affording colored people every opportunity possible for their own intellectual and cultural advancement as well as their economic betterment, but I am and shall always remain absolutely and utterly opposed to social intermingling of the colored race with the white. I belong to the white race and shall remain loyal to it. It always has been the dominant and leading race.
This discrimination was not concentrated at IU or in Bloomington, but instead occurred throughout the state. In “Breaking Racial Barriers to Public Accommodations in Indiana, 1935-1963,” historian Emma Lou Thornbrough states that “in spite of its northern location Indiana was indeed a segregated society.” African Americans faced discrimination on public buses, could not stay at certain hotels or receive treatment from certain hospitals, and were banned from many public beaches and parks, among other places. In sports, the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) denied all-black public high schools (and the state’s Catholic schools) from participating in the state’s esteemed high school basketball tournament from 1903 until the 1942-1943 season, and even then, prejudices continued.
According to Thornbrough, World War II “paved the way for a vigorous campaign against all forms of racial discrimination in the postwar years.” African Americans had helped fight for democracy and freedom abroad during the war, and they worked to secure those same freedoms for themselves at home in the years following. Change did not come quickly or easily. However, by the late 1940s and 1950s increasing numbers of public accommodations in Indiana became integrated.
For information on integration efforts at Indiana University and in Bloomington at this time see footnote 7. For information on racial discrimination and segregation in sports, see footnote 4. To learn more about the African American experience in Indiana during this period, see Emma Lou Thornbrough, Indiana Blacks in the Twentieth Century (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000).
 1940 United States Census, Addison Township, Shelby County, Indiana, roll T627_1094, page 6A, line 31, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; Squib 46, U.S. School Yearbooks, 1880-2012, Shelbyville High School, 1946, n.p., accessed Ancestry.com; "Hail the Heroes of Shelbyville!," photograph, Indianapolis Recorder, March 29, 1947, 1, accessed IUPUI Digital Collections; "Bill Garrett," Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, FindAGrave.com; “Bill Garrett, Assistant Dean and Former Basketball Star, Dies,” Green Sheet, IUPUI, August 11, 1974, accessed archives.iupui.edu; "Former Coach Honored in Ceremonies Here During Northwest Game," Tiger Topics, December 1974, 4, accessed Crispus Attucks Museum, IUPUI Digital Collections; Tom Graham and Rachel Graham Cody, Getting Open: The Unknown Story of Bill Garrett and the Integration of College Basketball (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008), 16-18, 21, 23.
William (Bill) L. Garrett was born in 1929, and grew up in Shelbyville, Indiana. According to Tom Graham and Rachel Graham Cody in their book Getting Open, "The racial violence that plagued other Indiana communities had largely passed by Shelbyville," but segregation was still prevalent in the town as an unspoken code of conduct. Garrett, like other African American children there, attended the segregated Booker T. Washington Elementary School. Graham and Cody note that Shelbyville's schools were segregated through sixth grade until 1949. That year, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law to abolish segregation in the state's public schools.
Garrett attended Shelbyville High School and graduated in 1947. A photograph in the 1946 Shelbyville High School Yearbook shows him as one of only a few African American students in his class. For information on Garrett’s high school basketball achievements while at Shelbyville, see footnote 3. For information on his college basketball success, see footnote 10. And for information on his career after graduating from IU, see footnote 12.
Garrett died August 7, 1974 at the age of 45. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and Crispus Attucks’ publications note that he was assistant dean for student services at IUPUI at the time of his death.
 “Smooth Shelby Quintet Takes Measure of Tiger Cubs, 59-40, Wednesday Eve,” [Greencastle] Daily Banner, January 9, 1947, 5, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Here’s Jack’s Story on Choice of Golden Bears,” Shelbyville Republican, February 28, 1947, 8, accessed ISL microfilm; Charles S. Preston, “Golden Bears Cast in Giant Killers’ Role,” Indianapolis Recorder, March 22, 1947, 11; “Beat Garfield 68 to 58 in Red Hot Final Game to Take Their 1st Title,” Logansport Press, March 23, 1947, 1, 12, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; Bob Overaker, “Bears Capture 1st Crown by Downing Unbeaten Garfield,” Indianapolis Star, March 23, 1947, 1, 8, accessed ISL microfilm; “4 Grueling Weeks of Tourney Play Bring State Title,” Shelbyville Democrat, March 24, 1947, 6, accessed ISL microfilm; Charles S. Preston, “Garrett Sets Pace of New State Champions,” Indianapolis Recorder, March 29, 1947, 11; Bob Overaker, "'Mr. Basketball' Honor Is Voted to Bill Garrett," Indianapolis Star, May 4, 1947, 41, 44, accessed ISL microfilm; "Bill Garrett Named Mr. Basketball for '47," Indianapolis Recorder, May 10, 1947, 11; Graham and Cody, 5, 12, 20-21, 26-27, 33-83.
Bill Garrett grew up playing basketball on the outdoor court behind Booker T. Washington Elementary School and had “a natural talent” for the game, according to Graham and Cody. By his senior year in high school (1946-1947), he was one of the star players on Shelbyville's varsity basketball team. He earned praise from newspapers across the state for his play. On January 9, 1947, one day after Garrett helped lead the Shelbyville Golden Bears to a decisive 59-40 victory over Greencastle, the Greencastle Daily Banner recognized him as “one of the smoothest performers and best shots” to appear on the Greencastle court over the years. Many regarded Garrett as the second Johnny Wilson. Wilson, also African-American, had graduated the year before from Anderson High School, where he led the team to the state basketball title and was named Indiana’s “Mr. Basketball.” The Indianapolis Recorder noted the similarities between the two in a March 22, 1947 article, stating that the resemblance in their play was “uncanny.” It continued:
The mark of greatness, however, in Garrett as in Wilson, is the ability to sweep through the opposition and turn a stalemated contest into a rout. It is that extra speed and split-second timing which stamps an all-state player as distinguished from a good player. It is cool floor-generalship and flawless ball-handling – and Garrett has them all.
See Graham and Cody for information on Shelbyville’s 1946-1947 season, particularly for details on the team’s race towards the 1947 state high school basketball championship. On February 28, 1947, the Shelbyville Republican republished an article by International News Service sports writer Jack Estell that was featured the day before, in which Estell noted that the 1947 state tournament kicked off with 781 teams competing for a chance to win the title. Despite the odds, Estell placed his bets on Shelbyville being one of the final four teams to vie for the championship, and pegged the team to win the title. This was due in large part to Garrett. Along with Garrett, the article praised Shelbyville’s four other starters ─ Emerson Johnson, Marshall Murray, Hank Hemingway, and Bill Breck – as well as Coach Frank Barnes and assistant coach Arthur (Doc) Barnett. At a time when segregation was prevalent in the state, Shelbyville’s team featured three African American starters: Murray, Johnson, and Garrett. For information on the racial discrimination they encountered during the season, see Getting Open.
By March 22, 1947, Estell’s prediction had become reality: Shelbyville made the Final Four. According to the Indianapolis Recorder that day, three out of the four teams competing were interracial squads. Shelbyville defeated the East Chicago Washington Senators 54-46 and advanced to the title game where they beat Terre Haute Garfield 68-58. On March 29, 1947, the Recorder reported that Garrett had set the all-time individual state tournament scoring record. His 91 points in the final four games eclipsed the 85-point record set by Johnny Wilson the year before.
The Indianapolis Star selected Garrett as “Mr. Basketball” for the 1947 season. In addition to this honor, Garrett was also co-recipient of the Paul Cross Award ― which he had won outright as a junior the previous year ― and he was named to the 1947 All-Star game. Graham and Cody report that the Paul Cross Award was given to the Shelbyville high school basketball player who “ranks the highest in athletic ability and skill, and in sportsmanship; in studentship and interest in school work; in loyalty to the best interests of the school; and who is clean, honorable, and self-controlled in his personal habits; in short, to that player who is at once a student, an athlete, and a gentleman.”
 Charles E. Harrell to Croan Greenough, May 9, 1940, “Negroes and Jews Statistics at IU and Negro Misc.,” 1940-41, Folder 1, Collection C213.414, President’s Office Records, Indiana University Archives, submitted by applicant; “Johnny Wilson Breaks College Cagers’ Scoring Record of Ind.,” Indianapolis Recorder, March 1, 1947, 11, accessed IUPUI Digital Collections; John Whitaker, “Speculating in Sports,” Hammond Times, March 25, 1947, 9, accessed ISL microfilm; “Basketball Democracy – A Challenge to I.U., Purdue,” Indianapolis Recorder, April 12, 1947, 10; Charles S. Preston, “’Mr. Basketball’ May Spend College Days on West Coast,” Indianapolis Recorder, June 7, 1947, 11; “’Mr. Basketball’ of 1946-47 Bill Garrett, Enters I.U.,” Indianapolis Recorder, October 4, 1947, 11; W. Blaine Patton, “If So, Why?,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 10, 1948, 11; “McCoy Says No Bias in ‘U’, Big Ten Sports,” Michigan Daily, January 12, 1950, 1, accessed GoogleNews; “The Color Line in Midwestern College Sports, 1890-1960,” Indiana Magazine of History (June 2002): 85-112, accessed JSTOR.
Despite the fact that Garrett, Wilson, and other African American players were leading their teams to high school titles, a “gentleman’s agreement” barred blacks from playing college basketball on Big Ten varsity teams into the late 1940s. In his May 9, 1940 letter on the conditions of Africans Americans at IU, Assistant Registrar Charles E. Harrell reported that there was “no written rule in the Big Ten regarding participation in athletics. The unwritten rule subscribed to by all schools precludes colored boys from participating in basketball, swimming, and wrestling.” In his article "The Color Line in Midwestern College Sports," historian Charles H. Martin noted the inconsistency with this rule, as blacks were allowed to play football and other sports in the Big Ten during this period. According to Martin, some speculated that the reason for the discrepancy was that basketball was played in more intimate settings with briefer uniforms, thus increasing the chance of contact between white players' and black players' skin.
Referred to as the" gentleman's agreement," the "unwritten rule," or the "lily-white rule," the color line in basketball came under increasing attack throughout the 1940s as more and more talented black players were being overlooked solely because of their race. In 1944, African American Richard (Dick) Culberson played varsity at the University of Iowa, but coaches largely regarded his participation as an exception rather than the rule. Culberson was a substitute rather than a starter, and wartime conditions made it more difficult to field a team, thus leading to slightly relaxed rules. A December 11, 1948 Indianapolis Recorder article noted that the University of Chicago (a member of the Big Ten until 1946) also had an African American player years earlier. Further research is needed to confirm this statement.
On March 25, 1947, after watching Bill Garrett, Emerson Johnson, and Marshall Murray help Shelbyville win the state championship, John Whitaker of the Hammond Times wrote an open letter to the commissioner of the Big Ten in which he asked why the "unwritten agreement" existed:
If the biggest, braggingest [sic] athletic conference in the middle of the greatest country in the world can use Negroes like Buddy Young, Ike Owen, Dallas Ward, Duke Slater, George Taliaferro and the like to draw $200,000 crowds for football . . . and Negroes like Jesse Owen and Eddie Tolan to win Olympic crowns . . . why can't it use them in basketball.
The Indianapolis Recorder praised Whitaker's article on April 12, 1947, and followed it up by asking what would happen now to Shelbyville's three black starters: "After the medals and trophies have been stored away, what then? Was it all just moonglow? Was all the celebrating merely a moment of brotherhood in an eternity of intolerance?" In June 1947, the Recorder reported that despite Garrett's hopes to play basketball at IU or Purdue, he might travel to California to continue his career because of the existence of the "gentleman's agreement." This news prompted Recorder writer Charles S. Preston to criticize the State of Indiana and the conference in hopes of bringing an end to the ban:
What in Hades is the matter with the Hoosier state, when we are going to let one of our best basketball players of all time get away from us, and go out to California to play! And all because of a ridiculous 'unwritten law' that doesn't begin to make sense!
Coach Ernie McCoy of the University of Michigan and others continued to deny the existence of such an agreement barring blacks from Big Ten basketball. However, the continued absence of African Americans on these teams indicated otherwise.
Note: The Big Ten was not the only conference to bar blacks from college basketball. For information on racial discrimination in the Big 6, see “Big 6 Faculty Representatives Put Gentleman’s Agreement in Writing,” Lawrence [Kansas] Journal World, May 20, 1946, 8, accessed NewspaperArchive.com.
 “’Mr. Basketball’ of 1946-47 Bill Garrett, Enters I.U.,” Indianapolis Recorder, October 4, 1947, 11; Elmer O’Banion to Herman B Wells, October 12, 1947, letter, submitted with application; W. Blaine Patton, “If So, Why?,” Indianapolis Recorder, February 14, 1948, 3; “May the Best Team Win,” Indianapolis Recorder, February 28, 1948, 10; “1948 – Race Relations Honor Roll – 1948,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 8, 1949, 1; Ted Knap, “Faburn DeFratz [sic], ‘the Chief,’ Pauses at 75 to Catch Breath,” Indianapolis Times, February 9, 1960, 2, accessed ISL microfilm; Herman B Wells, Being Lucky: Reminiscences and Reflections (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980), 216-217; Faburn DeFrantz, unpublished autobiography, read and copied by Rachel Graham Cody from personal collection of Robert DeFrantz, Indianapolis, August 2, 2000, submitted by applicant; Dorothy Collins, interview by Rachel Graham Cody, Bloomington, July 30, 2000, transcript submitted by applicant.
After Shelbyville won the 1947 state high school basketball title, many wondered if and where Garrett would continue his basketball career. Fearful that he would be bypassed by Big Ten teams like others before him, Indianapolis black leaders banded together in order to persuade IU to give Garrett an opportunity to make the school's team. Faburn DeFrantz, Executive Director of the Senate Avenue YMCA in Indianapolis, spearheaded the effort. According to Graham and Cody, DeFrantz, Rufus Kuykendall and Everett Hall (both IU graduates and Indianapolis attorneys), Al Spurlock (teacher at Crispus Attucks), and Hobson Ziegler (DeFrantz's assistant), drove down to Bloomington in the spring or summer of 1947 to meet with IU President Herman B Wells on behalf of Garrett. Nate Kaufman, a Shelbyville businessman who played for the Shelbyville Golden Bears in the early 1920s also assisted in the effort to give Garrett a chance at IU.
Wells confirms these details in his reminiscences and reflections; he was eager to end racial discrimination and segregation at the school, but wanted to do so quietly, so as to prevent any backlash from others. After meeting with DeFrantz and the others, Wells reportedly asked IU basketball coach Branch McCracken to give Garrett a chance to make the team, noting that he would handle any backlash from other Big Ten coaches.
In DeFrantz's unpublished autobiography, excerpts of which were obtained by Graham and Cody during their research, DeFrantz acknowledges Wells' role in helping to break down racial barriers at IU. He writes: "In Indiana University's President Herman B Wells democracy found an ally. No overhaul of policy such as that accomplished at Indiana University could have been possible without the cooperation he gave." The Indianapolis Recorder praised DeFrantz and others for their efforts to get Garrett to IU in an October 4, 1947 article and recognized them as "key figures in the victory for democracy." In January 1949, during Garrett's first season on the varsity team, the Recorder named DeFrantz to its 1948 Race Relations Honor Roll, noting his unremitting campaign to help end racial discrimination in sports.
 “Bill Garrett Hails Recorder Stand for ‘Fair Play,’” Indianapolis Recorder, October 18, 1947, 11; W. Blaine Patton, “If So, Why?,” Indianapolis Recorder, February 14, 1948, 3; “Bill Garrett, Cage Ace, Makes I.U. Squad,” Indianapolis Recorder, November 27, 1948, 11; “I.U. Squad Beats DePauw Quintet, in Opener, 61-48,” Indianapolis Recorder, December 11, 1948, 11; “Bright Basketball Season,” Indianapolis Recorder, December 25, 1948, 10; “Hail to King Basketball,” Indianapolis Recorder, February 18, 1950, 11; “Race Relations Honor Roll,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 6, 1951, 1; “Sepia Sophs and Freshmen Going Big in College Play,” Indianapolis Recorder, December 22, 1951, 11; “Jewell and Teammates,” photo, Indianapolis Recorder, January 12, 1952, 11.
On October 18, 1947, the Indianapolis Recorder reported that Garrett had entered Indiana University and was slated to play on the school's basketball team. After a year on the freshman squad, the Recorder noted on November 27, 1948 that he was playing regular center on the varsity team in practice drills. Garrett made his regular-season varsity debut in December 1948 as IU beat DePauw 61-48. In doing so, he became the first African American player on an IU varsity basketball squad. More importantly, the Recorder recognized on December 11, 1948, that ". . . Garrett's entry into the Big Nine ranks may prove to be the beginning of the end for an anti-Negro 'gentleman's agreement'. . ."
Integration in basketball, both at the high school and eventually the college level helped improve racial relations, as fans cheered their teams to victory regardless of the color of their players' skin. On February 18, 1950, the Recorder reported on the influence that sports had on blurring the color line, stating:
Race prejudice, too, has generally been given the bum’s rush by the fans who lose sight of everything but the fortunes of OUR TEAM. The performances of such athletes as Bill Garrett, Johnny Wilson, and a host of others have probably done as much as anything else to kill the Ku Klux Klan spirit in Indiana. A quick field goal by a Negro player will do more to “convert” the ordinary Hoosier than all the Race Relations Days in a century.
Garrett had helped “convert” thousands in Shelbyville and across the state during his high school years and he would work to do the same while playing at IU. See footnote 11 for more information on how Garrett helped open the way for other African Americans to play basketball in the Big Ten and the Midwest.
 “Form NAACP Branch to Gain Equal Advantage,” Indianapolis Recorder, February 10, 1945, 9; "I.U Students Approve Negro Athletes on Basketball Team," Indianapolis Recorder, June 14, 1947, 9; "Two Way Attack Made on Segregation at I.U.," Indianapolis Recorder, April 3, 1948, 9; "Hoosier Sophomore Grabs Scoring Lead," Tipton Tribune, March 10, 1949, 5, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; "Indiana Opens Dormitories to Colored Women," Indianapolis Recorder, August 13, 1949, 7; "Bloomington's Cafes Jimcrowed, Under Fire," Indianapolis Recorder, March 18, 1950, 1; "I.U. Students Stage Drive on Jimcrow Eating Houses," Indianapolis Recorder, March 25, 1950, 9; "Senate Ave. YMCA Cites Bloomington Pastor,” Indianapolis Recorder, November 25, 1950, 9; Herman B Wells, Being Lucky: Reminiscences and Reflections (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980), 214-220.
In the years immediately following World War II, there was a strong push to integrate other parts of IU and the greater Bloomington area. In Being Lucky: Reminiscences and Reflections, IU President Wells describes his efforts to help end racial discrimination in several parts of campus during this time, including the Union Building, the men’s swimming pool, on-campus housing, and on the school basketball team. African American students at IU formed a local branch of the NAACP in early 1945 and made the admittance of black students to state-owned dormitories on campus their number one priority. According to a February 10, 1945 Indianapolis Recorder article, African American women were admitted to an on-campus dormitory in the fall of 1944, but discriminatory practices continued.
On April 3, 1948, the Indianapolis Recorder reported on "a two-pronged attack on discrimination against Negro students at Indiana University." The attack again targeted discriminatory practices against female African American students in housing facilities, as well as discrimination against African American student teachers. According to student publications quoted in the Recorder that day, "Negro girls are barred from dormitories even where the majority of white girls favor admitting them..."
IU finally ended segregation in women's residence halls in August of 1949, opening all women's dormitories to students regardless of race, color, or creed. According to the Indianapolis Recorder, "the move came after a long and vigorous campaign by the NAACP and other democracy-minded organizations on the IU campus and in Indianapolis." The Recorder praised IU on this move, noting that "a steady crusade has gone on year after year to enlarge the area of fair play on the campus itself and in the city of Bloomington."
The following spring, the Recorder again covered attacks on segregation in the area, this time aimed at Bloomington's downtown restaurants. Articles in the paper on March 18, 1950 and March 25, 1950 reported on efforts led by the NAACP, Willard Ransom (NAACP state president), Faburn DeFrantz, and IU students to integrate restaurants in the city. Dr. Wells also pledged to help in the crusade and end discrimination in the eating places. According to the articles, restaurants on campus were desegregated two years earlier. The Recorder noted that "Indiana University has come to the fore in recent years as an increasingly democratic institution in race relations." Achievements listed included ending segregation in university cafeterias, university housing, Bloomington movie theaters, and honorary fraternities and sororities on campus.
 "Bill Garrett Needs Company,” Indianapolis Recorder, March 11, 1950, 10; "I.U. Students Stage Drive on Jimcrow Eating Houses," Indianapolis Recorder, March 25, 1950, 9; Merle Jones, “Changnon Has Great Record Past 15 Years,” Carbondale Southern Illinoisan, November 18, 1950, 7, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; "Bill Garrett Gets Big Ten Rating in AP," Indianapolis Recorder, March 10, 1951, 11; William L. Garrett, Interview by William B. Pickett and Barbara E. Benson, June 5, 1970, Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory; Graham and Cody, 171-172.
On March 11, 1950, the Indianapolis Recorder published an article entitled "Bill Garrett Needs Company" in which it reported that Garrett was disappointed at being the only black basketball player in the Big Ten conference. The article noted that in addition to Indiana University, DePauw, Earlham, and Anderson College all had African American students on their teams that season, and it encouraged Big Ten schools to follow their lead. However, by the following year, as Garrett’s final college basketball season was coming to an end, some feared that the Big Ten might revert to an all-white status again.
In their book Getting Open, Graham and Cody note that although Garrett was the only black varsity basketball player in the Big Ten during his time at IU, African Americans John Codwell at the University of Michigan and Rickey Ayala at Michigan State were playing freshman basketball during Garrett’s senior year. At this time, freshman could not play on varsity teams except for the 1951-1952 season, which included an exception because the Korean War made it difficult to field a team. Garrett graduated in June 1951 before the exception took effect.
In researching their book, Graham and Cody corresponded with several Big Ten athletic departments to confirm that no other African American played Big Ten varsity basketball while Garrett was playing. See the Integrating Basketball marker file at the Indiana Historical Bureau for copies of this correspondence. For information on other African American basketball players who made Big Ten teams in the years immediately following Garrett, see footnote 11.
 “School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation,” June Exercises: One Hundred Twenty-Second Annual Commencement, Indiana University, June 18, 1951, accessed Indiana University Archives and Records Management, copy in IHB marker file; "William [Bill] Leon Garrett," Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, application, submitted by applicant.
Garrett graduated from IU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education in June 1951. For information on his final varsity basketball season, see footnote 10.
 Steve Boda Jr., "'Youth Movement' Brings 2nd Straight Upset Win," Bloomington Daily Herald, February 22, 1949, 4; accessed ISL microfilm; "Hoosier Sophomore Grabs Scoring Lead," Tipton Tribune, March 10, 1949, 5, accessed NewspaperArchive; Henry J. McCormick, “Wisconsin Drills Aimed at Halting Indiana’s Speed,” Wisconsin State Journal, January 5, 1950, 1, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; "Hoosier Cage Meet at Butler Won by I.U. Five," Indianapolis Recorder, January 7, 1950, 9; Will Robinson, "Bill Garrett Has Helped Wipe Out the Color Bars That Stood in Big Ten," Pittsburgh Courier, February 4, 1950, n.p., submitted by applicant; "'Big Bill' Garrett Named All-American," Shelbyville Democrat, February 22, 1951, 1, submitted by applicant; "Sporting New Names I.U. Cager in Top Billing," Indianapolis Recorder, February 25, 1951, 11; "Big Ten's First Negro Star Gets Standing Ovation in Final Game," Jasper Daily Herald, March 6, 1951, 6, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; Norman Miller, “UP Names Spivey, Melchiorre, Mlkvy, Ranzino, and Lovellette to All-American Cage First Team,” Ames [Iowa] Daily Tribune, March 7, 1051, 7, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; "Bill Garrett Named Most Valuable Player," Logansport Pharos Tribune, March 8, 1951, 9, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; "Bill Garrett Gets Big Ten Rating in AP," Indianapolis Recorder, March 10, 1951, 11; William L. Garrett, interview by William B. Pickett and Barbara E. Benson, June 5, 1970, Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory, 7-9.
Despite encountering discrimination from some of the team’s older players and while on the road for away games, Garrett quickly made a name for himself on IU’s team. In a February 1949 article, the Bloomington Daily Herald commended Garrett on his talent, and noted the positive impact that he and other younger players were having on the team. By the end of the season, Garrett had tallied 220 points, the highest total on the squad that season. This success continued into his junior and senior years, with newspapers commenting on his speed and play-making ability. In a January 5, 1950 article, the Wisconsin State Journal reported, “Indiana’s attack is built around William Garrett, a lithe Negro who stands only 6-2 1/2 but plays offensive center. He is quick as a cat and has a devastating one-handed shot.”
The following month, the Pittsburgh Courier, a leading African-American newspaper, referred to him as "the most spectacular member on the team coached by Branch McCracken." The publication also made note of the fact that Garrett was an "all-around athlete." In addition to playing basketball, he was a member of the track and baseball teams at Indiana University.
During Garrett's time on the varsity basketball squad, the team’s record improved greatly. In the 1947-1948 season, the year before Garrett joined the team, IU won only eight games and lost twelve. The following season, Garrett’s first with the varsity squad, they improved to fourteen wins, and by his senior year (1950-1951), they went 19-3 and were ranked seventh in the nation. For more information on IU’s record and its players during these years, see the Indiana Basketball Men’s Database.
Much of the team’s success during this period stemmed from Garrett’s talent on the court. On March 6, 1951, the Jasper Daily Herald reported that Garrett had broken IU’s four-year career scoring record with a total of 792 points in only three seasons of play. His 193 Big Ten points during the 1950-1951 season also broke the old record set in the 1946-1947 season. In addition to these records, Garrett was also recognized by his team, the Big Ten, and nationally for his play. On February 24, 1951, the Indianapolis Recorder announced that Sporting News, a well-respected sports publication in the country, named Garrett to its All-American team. The Recorder quoted sportswriter Cy Kritzer in its February 24, 1951 issue regarding the selection. Kritzer remarked that “Above all, he [Garrett] was a playmaker. The game has none better than the Hoosier star on the fast break.” Just a few weeks later, the United Press named Garrett a second-team All-American. As noted in the Ames [Iowa] Daily Tribune on March 7, 1951, the All-American team was selected by a poll of the nation’s leading sportswriters and radio broadcasters. Garrett was also voted Most Valuable Player of the season by his teammates and came in second in balloting for the Big Ten’s most valuable basketball player of the year. See the Indianapolis Recorder on March 10, 1951, and the New York Times on March 25, 1951, for more information on these awards.
 Bill Libby, “’A Nice Guy’ – That Fits Bill Garrett,” Indiana Daily Student, March 6, 1951, n.p. submitted by applicant; "Bill Garrett Gets Big Ten Rating in AP," Indianapolis Recorder, March 10, 1951, 11; "First Negro is on Boilermaker Freshman Squad," Indianapolis Recorder, November 17, 1951, 11; "Sepia Sophs and Freshmen Going Big in College Play," Indianapolis Recorder, December 22, 1951, 11; [Untitled], Indianapolis Recorder, photograph caption, January 12, 1951, 11; “Bertrand, Shine, Hall in Fieldhouse ‘Tourney,’” Indianapolis Recorder, December 29, 1951, 9; "8 Tan Starters in Hoosier Classic," Indianapolis Recorder, December 20, 1958, 11; Graham and Cody, 171-172.
Although no African American players joined Garrett at the varsity level before he graduated, his example on and off the court helped create opportunities for others in the future. On March 6, 1951, with Garrett’s college career winding down, the Indiana Daily Student ran an article, noting the school body's pride in him and how much he would be missed the next year. According to the paper, Garrett was "one fine model for a young athlete to pattern himself after." At a time when segregation was still practiced in many areas of the state, and black athletes were still scarce in certain sports, this was a significant statement. It was a testament to both his talent and character, and again called into question why blacks should not be permitted to play Big Ten basketball.
In the season immediately following Garrett's graduation, at least seven black basketball players made Big Ten teams. On November 17, 1951, the Indianapolis Recorder reported that Ernie Hall had become the first African American basketball player at Purdue, and that Bob Jewell, who played at Crispus Attucks, made the University of Michigan's team. In January 1952, the Recorder noted that in addition to Jewell, Michigan had two other African American players that season: Don Eaddy and Jonn Codwell. The Recorder traced this progress back to Bill Garrett, stating: "Following the path opened by Bill Garrett at Indiana University, sepia cagers are now making Big 10 and other leading teams in increasing numbers." Likewise, the Capitol Times of Madison, Wisconsin also credited Garrett, noting that he was “the Jackie Robinson of the cage court” and that he had “blazed the way for others of his race in the college game this season.” Other African American players during the 1951-1952 year included Rickey Ayala at Michigan State, Walt Moore at Illinois, and Deacon Davis at Iowa. Additionally, outside the Big Ten, Notre Dame also ended the color line at the school during this period, with African Americans Joe Bertrand and Entee Shine joining the Irish squad.
Though racial prejudice in sports did not end, black players continued to find success on Big Ten and other Midwest basketball teams. By 1958, at least eight African Americans were starters in the Hoosier Classic, played between Purdue, Butler, Indiana, and Notre Dame.
 Charles Preston, "Promotion of Crowe Floors Attucks Fans," Indianapolis Recorder, July 13, 1957, 1, 8; "Mrs. Ray Crowe Takes Issue With Recorder Story," Indianapolis Recorder July 20, 1957, 11; William Webster, "Mayor Sparks Attucks Pep Session, Former Team Players Praise Tigers," Indianapolis Recorder, March 8, 1958, 1; "Worse They Whistled, Better Attucks Played," Indianapolis Recorder, March 14, 1959, 11; "More Glory to Bill Garrett, Attucks Tigers," Indianapolis Recorder, March 21, 1959, 10; "Garrett Named Coach of the Year," Indianapolis Recorder, May 2, 1959, 1; "Ball Hawkers Keep Winning Tradition Alive," The Tiger: Crispus Attucks High School Yearbook (1958), 40-42; "State Crown Reward for Desire and Ability," The Tiger: Crispus Attucks High School Yearbook (1959), 46, 48, 50; [Untitled], The Tiger: Crispus Attucks High School Yearbook (1968), 90; "Thomas Appointed to A.D. Position," Tiger Topics (November 1970): 1-6, 6; “Bill Garrett Inducted into Hall of Fame,” Greensburg Daily News, March 21, 1974, 7, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; "Former Coach Honored in Ceremonies Here During Northwest Game," Tiger Topics (December 1974), 4.
All issues of The Tiger Topic: Crispus Attucks High School Yearbook and Tiger Topics were accessed via IUPUI Digital Collections, Crispus Attucks Museum.
On July 13, 1957, the Indianapolis Recorder reported that Bill Garrett had been hired to succeed Ray Crowe as head basketball coach at Crispus Attucks. According to the Recorder, Crowe had been "kicked upstairs" to become athletic director at the school, leading to the opening of the head coach position. Despite Garrett's talent as a player, the Recorder questioned the move at the time. Crowe had led Crispus Attucks to the state basketball title in 1955 and 1956, and the paper considered him to be one of the greatest coaches in the state. Unfortunately, there was little room for Crowe's advancement at other schools, including Indiana University, because of his race. The Recorder noted: "All one can do for Crowe's successor, the talented and popular Bill Garrett, is to pray." Garrett would not only be compared to Crowe, but to others who were also considered for the coaching position.
The following week, Crowe's wife Betty responded to the article referenced above, criticizing the Recorder for the way it presented the story. According to Betty Crowe, her husband "had no intention of going on for years as a coach" and made the decision to leave the position voluntarily so as to become athletic director. Betty continued by expressing her confidence in Garrett as he assumed head coach responsibilities.
In his first year as coach at Attucks, Garrett helped the team win its sixth straight sectional crown. Just one year later, he coached the team to the state championship, again bringing glory to the school. On March 4, 1959, the Recorder praised Garrett's work with the team, stating: "Garrett's handling of his club during the tournament has been well-nigh perfect. He has won the solid confidence of Attucks fans who only a few weeks ago were down on him." The Indiana Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association named Garrett Coach of the Year soon after the tournament. According to the Recorder, he was the first African American to receive the honor in the state.
Garrett coached Attucks for ten years. In 1968, The Tiger, Crispus Attucks High School Yearbook, noted that he had assumed the position of athletic director when Ray Crowe left the position. Garrett was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1974.
African American, Sports