Richard Hatcher: a man of determination

Richard Hatcher: a man of determination

Sage Santana

If a man is measured by his successes, Richard G. Hatcher is such man.this is due not only to his prominent political career, but also his title as first black mayor of a large city.

 

Born on July 10, 1933 right here in Michigan City, Hatcher had a large family, and grew up in an area called the Patch (currently across from Blue Chip Casino).  One thing that Hatcher claims about growing up in Michigan City, was that segregation and discrimination were not as prevalent here as were in other places, particularly in the South. As he aged, Hatcher attended Valparaiso University School of Law and graduated in 1959. During and preceding college, Hatcher would take up his time supporting the Civil Rights cause locally and nationally. This included trips down South, to stand in solidarity with other members of the community to show his support of the movement.

In one instance, Hatcher went to Jackson, Mississippi with an associate, and there the two filed lawsuits to fight for the rights of blacks to vote. Although the intentions were just, Hatcher recalled times where he felt unsafe in the city, worried that people would physically harm him during his stay. However, this did not deter the lawyer.

 

Eventually, Richard Hatcher decided to practice law at East Chicago. He first served as Lake County’s prosecuting attorney, but soon was in the running to be Gary’s first black mayor.

 

After a successful win to Gary’s mayoral position, Hatcher encouraged the further advancement of African Americans through business. Hatcher managed to attract outside business owners to support Gary’s economic growth, and he awarded many contracts to black business owners. Hatcher had a focused and determined attitude, and wanted to improve the lives and rights of blacks locally and nationally. This is especially apparent in his campaign slogan “Let [us] get ourselves together.”

 

In addition to serving as the first black mayor of a large city, Richard G. Hatcher also served as a civil rights activist, often delivering speeches alongside the famous Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, and Jesse Jackson.  Hatcher even had the opportunity to address the president at the time, Lyndon B. Johnson, concerning the assasination of Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Hatcher eventually decided to retire from his political career, and turned to teaching law at his own alma mater, Valparaiso University. More recently, however, Hatcher taught as an adjunct professor at Indiana University-Northwest. The former mayor, still lives in the city he fought to improve those many decades ago. At a recent “Diversity Day” that took place this past January in Merrillville, students in the area were invited to go to Merrillville High School where Mr. Hatcher gave a talk concerning his life and discrimination today. With a look of determination, Richard Hatcher told the teens “We get discouraged that we will ever rid ourselves of the scourge that is racial discrimination. I will tell you this morning that we will get beyond this discrimination.”

 

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