Dust Bowl memorial marks a hallowed ground of Indiana basketball history: Newscenter: Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

Dust Bowl memorial marks a hallowed ground of Indiana basketball history

  • Feb. 9, 2016


INDIANAPOLIS -- No longer will IUPUI students walk across a hallowed ground for Indiana basketball with no idea of "the powerful meaning that spot holds."

A historical plaque has been installed on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus marking the spot of the legendary Lockefield Gardens Dust Bowl.

The Dust Bowl, a dirt basketball court once located near the spot where volleyball and basketball courts were developed last year as the IUPUI Campus Recreation Outdoor Facility, holds a storied place in Indianapolis sports history.

It was a proving ground for hundreds of young Indianapolis basketball players, including NBA great Oscar Robertson and other members of the Crispus Attucks High School teams that won Indiana state championships in 1955 and 1956. 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 boys state title.

The marker "is a great way to honor the Dust Bowl legacy and educate our students about the African-American community that has contributed to the history of the IUPUI campus," said Tralicia P. Lewis, assistant vice chancellor of student affairs at IUPUI.

Unveiling of the historical marker was originally scheduled to take place last April during a campus and community celebration that included the dedication of the outdoor recreational area and activities paying tribute to the Attucks 1955 champions. The installation, completed in December, was postponed in order to allow additional community input regarding the plaque's wording.

"The importance of the old outdoor facility has been lost over time," Lewis said at the ceremony. "I wanted to include the Dust Bowl in the dedication because I want our students to be aware of the history that took place there. These days, so many of our students don't know who Oscar Robertson was, let alone the role he played in our city's development."

The plaque reads:

"The Lockefield Gardens Dust Bowl was built here in 1945. The dirt court was home to a tournament started by Police Athletic League (PAL) leader Anthony Watkins and continued by James 'Bruiser' Gaines. It is impossible to list the many athletes who were mentored here and played on this court, many of whom went on to high school, college, and even professional stardom. These players came from north, south, east, and west of Lockefield. The Dust Bowl was a magnet for players from Lockefield and beyond whose spirit and ability live on today. President Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt's vision for fairness was played out in Lockefield Gardens and on this basketball court."

IUPUI student Elizabeth Cotter received the 2015 Jim Murray Memorial Foundation Judges' Choice Scholarship Award of $5,000 for an essay showcasing the Dust Bowl. Cotter's essay recapped both the Dust Bowl's history and the dedication, which included a symposium featuring Robertson and other Attucks alumni.

IUPUI students "have walked to class for years with no idea of what stood there and the powerful meaning that spot holds," Cotter wrote.

Although she knew about Robertson's sports legacy, Cotter said, she only learned of the Dust Bowl because of the dedication ceremony.

"If I didn't know about it, I figured a lot of other students didn't know either. To showcase it was very cool," she said.

Dust Bowl marker

Dust Bowl marker

Print Quality Photo

Diane Brown