The University of Indianapolis is honoring the memory and contributions of two alums, African American basketball pioneers Ray and George Crowe, by renaming one of its student residences after them.
The university will be rededicating one of its student residences — formerly known as New Hall — as Ray & George Crowe Hall.
The 1954-55 Crispus Attucks High School basketball team, coached by Ray Crowe (top left) won of the 1955 Indiana State High School Basketball Championship. (Courtesy of the Indianapolis Star)
Ray Crowe coached future NBA star Oscar Robertson and Crispus Attucks High School to the 1955 Indiana State High School Basketball Championship, the first time in history that an African American basketball team won a state title. He repeated the title in 1956.
George Crowe, who has been featured extensively on this website, was a pro basketball star with the Los Angeles Red Devils, alongside teammate Jackie Robinson, and with the New York Rens, before launching a record-setting career in Major League Baseball. He was the last surviving member of the Rens.
George Crowe with the New York Rens, circa 1948. (Courtesy of the Black Fives Photo Archive)
“It is so appropriate for these pioneering African American men to be honored this way, appreciated daily, in a rich learning environment,” says author and historian Claude Johnson of BlackFives.com, who will attend the event.
The ceremony will be followed by a reception for family members, community leaders, and university trustees, as well as a cookout and the school’s homecoming football game.
From the invitation sent out by the school:
Ray and George are distinguished alumni of the University of Indianapolis (then known as Indiana Central College), and we are proud to celebrate the brothers’ Greyhound connection. The rededication to honor their memory and service to the community will be part of Homecoming Weekend celebrations at 4 p.m. on October 6.
We look forward to seeing you at this historic occasion.
Though they were basketball pioneers, the brothers had many accomplishments beyond the game. From the university’s website:
Ticket stub from the 1955 Indiana State High School Basketball Championship Finals, won by Crispus Attucks HS under head coach Ray Crowe. (From the Collection of Claude Johnson)
Ray Crowe, who died in 2003, was perhaps best known as coach of the Crispus Attucks High School basketball teamthat won state championships in 1955 and 1956, becoming the first African-American team in the nation to claim a state title and launching the career of NBA star Oscar Robertson. Ray was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1968 and the University of Indianapolis Hall of Fame in 1987.As a student at UIndy, then known as Indiana Central, Ray earned nine letters in basketball, track and baseball, as well as the education degree that informed his career as a teacher and coach. In 1966, he was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives, serving two terms and chairing the House Education Committee. He later led the Indianapolis parks department from 1976 to 1979 and served on the City-County Council from 1983 to 1987, meanwhile serving 18 years on UIndy’s Board of Trustees.
George Crowe, named Indiana’s first Mr. Basketball while playing for Franklin High School, also became a three-sport standout at Indiana Central, which other siblings also attended. After serving overseas in the Army from 1943 to 1946, he began playing professional basketball and baseball. He was thought to be the first African-American player to sign with the Boston Braves organization, which he did in 1949, playing in the minors before his big-league debut in 1952.
As an All-Star infielder, George later played for the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976, the University of Indianapolis Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004. He died in 2011.
For much more on George Crowe, please see Claude Johnson’s multi-part series on him published here at BlackFives.com.