Statue of historic former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher unveiled

GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- The community of Gary, Indiana paid tribute to a trailblazing former mayor.

Richard Hatcher was the first African American mayor of a large city in the U.S., and Wednesday a statue in his honor was revealed.

The piece sits outside Gary's City Hall where Hatcher served five terms as mayor after making history in the November 1967 election. That year he joined Cleveland's mayor in becoming the first two black elected officials of mid-sized American cities.

The 86-year-old and his historic victory are often credited with paving the way for others with political aspirations like former President Barack Obama, and even Gary's current and first African American female Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

While Hatcher was mayor the city saw the construction of the Genesis Convention Center, which once hosted the Miss USA Pageant. During that time, he also saw the city lose steel industry jobs and wrestle with escalating crime.

Hatcher was the son of factory workers and was born in Michigan City, Indiana. He attended Indiana University and law school before entering politics.

The likeness of Hatcher cost some $80,000, and is a combination of bronze and limestone. It captures him in mid-stride during his historic campaign.

The Hatcher family said they hope his statue will be an inspiration to all.
Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.