Hoosier Hall of Fame: The Endorsements
These Indiana mainstays get a lot of love—but is it deserved? We asked the experts.
This story is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s 2016 Indiana Bicentennial coverage, which includes our list of the 200 Hoosier Hall of Fame picks, designated throughout in bold. For more on this celebration of the state’s first two centuries, click here.
The Endorsement: Sarah Evans Barker
Judge Sarah Evans Barker is good at being first. She was Indiana’s first female assistant U.S. Attorney, first female federal judge, and first female chief judge. Yet even with attention-getting decisions on school prayer and the separation of church and state, she’s not that well known beyond law and history buffs. Maybe a fellow judge can make a convincing case for her place in history.
Expert Says “Perhaps her greatest legacy is the impact she has had as a role model and supporter of women. She was an excellent first role model—tough yet compassionate, resolute yet collegial, humorous yet sincere. She once told me she was mindful during her whole career that being the first woman, she had to do it right. And that she did—her example became the model emulated by an army of women.” —Judge Nancy Vaidik, chief judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals
The Endorsement: Birch Bayh
Former U.S. Senator Birch Bayh is known for being the father of two things: two-term Indiana governor Evan Bayh and Title IX, the 1972 law that gave equal opportunity to women in education. We all know about Evan. But where has Title IX had the biggest effect?
Expert Says “To have a man at that time step up and speak out on behalf of women, he was way ahead of his time. We haven’t celebrated him enough. I was playing right after Title IX was enacted. The number of women participating in sports before as compared to after—the difference was huge. Before, we didn’t have the same opportunities, or the same financial resources. Kids today are a little spoiled in that they don’t understand all the things we had to fight for back when Title IX came into law, even if it wasn’t very well enforced at first.” —Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame women’s
The Endorsement: Dan Patch
Born in Oxford, Indiana, in 1896, racehorse Dan Patch isn’t a household name like, say, Man o’ War. A Standardbred rather than a Thoroughbred, as a pacer he manned a two-wheel cart called a sulky. Nobody knows what a sulky is anymore. Why should we know about Patch?
Expert Says “When Dan Patch started racing, he raced 19 times and won all 19 races. He only lost two heats in his whole career. Other owners stopped racing against him, and from that point on he raced just exhibition against the clock. He was just a dominant figure, and hugely famous. You know how big Michael Jordan was? He was bigger than that.” —Will Williams, Dan Patch historian
The Endorsement: Ryan Murphy
As writer Tom Chiarella noted in these pages in 2012, TV wunderkind Ryan Murphy—creator of Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story, and Scream Queens, to name a few—isn’t that interested in remembering his Indianapolis childhood. So why should we bother remembering him?
Expert Says “You can’t find someone who does TV quite like he does. When he brings a new show to TV, people know it will touch the zeitgeist. And there is a sense that he is now enough of a brand that you can put his name on a show or let people know he is involved and people will watch based on that alone. There aren’t many TV creators or show runners who are like that.” —Eric Deggans, NPR TV critic
Gary native Karl Malden was one of the most celebrated character actors of his time, winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in A Streetcar Named Desire. Yet most people under 40 don’t remember him. Why is that? And does he warrant remembering?
Expert Says “Malden was the stereotypical hardworking Midwesterner who just wanted to do his craft the best he could. I’d liken him to Gene Hackman. Both played the same kind of character: very passionate, very blue-collar, not necessarily introspective. And if you saw one of them had a movie coming out, you’d probably want to go see it.” —Wes Gehring, Ball State University film studies professor
Indiana impressionist painter T.C. Steele captured the rolling beauty of his home state’s countryside at the turn of the century. All well and good, but why should we look at paintings of scenes that we can drive to in less than an hour?
Expert Says “T.C. Steele earned admiration from all who knew him. His contributions to American art were acknowledged by his peers with his election to associate membership in New York’s National Academy of Design. Through his paintings, Hoosiers came to value and treasure the subtle beauty of their surroundings. You might say that Steele helped us to see ‘with new eyes.’” —Rachel Berenson Perry, art historian and author of Paint and Canvas: A Life of T.C. Steele
We all know LOVE, the 1970 Robert Indiana–designed sculpture that resides at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Sure, it’s big. That tilted “O” is kind of cool. But has the mass proliferation of the image diluted its power and rendered it pedestrian?
Expert Says “LOVE made Robert Indiana famous, and he is ambivalent about it to this day. But it is a fantastically brilliant image. It’s a bit unstable, the ‘O’ is going off—it’s not just four letters stacked on top of each other. It has a dynamism that suggests the fragility of love, and the sense that love is almost a little out of reach.” —Barbara Haskell, Whitney Museum of American Art curator
Indianapolis-born architect Michael Graves is probably best known for his wildly successful line of chic housewares for Target (those modern teakettles were pretty cool). But his retail triumph cost him some credibility among other architects. Rightly so?
Expert Says “Graves challenged the austerity of modern architecture that was epitomized by the soulless glass boxes that were making all American cities look the same. A real turning point in his career came when Target [along with the National Parks Service] hired him to design the scaffolding for the Washington Monument. It was so beautiful that a lot of people wanted it to stay.”
—Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune architecture critic
The Endorsement: Parke County’s covered bridges
The eastern Indiana county has more covered bridges than any other county in all of America. You may be wondering: So what? What’s so special about bridges with roofs? And just how many
covered bridges are in Parke County, anyway?
Expert Says “We’ve got 31 one of them, the oldest dating back to 1856. We still have them today because they lasted so well. This is a county with little industry or retail business, and not a lot of money to replace things. And the purity of the craftsmanship of these bridges is special. These were built with hand tools, and they’re still standing.” —Jim Meece, Parke County commissioner
This story originally ran in the January 2016 issue.