Madam C. J. Walker was honored in the inaugural class of Hoosier Legacy Award nominees with a memorial on Georgia Street in Indianapolis on March 2.
Descendants of several of the ten iconic Hoosiers joined Mayor Greg Ballard as he unveiled the seven-foot-tall pillars in the plaza that had hosted the 2012 Super Bowl Village a few weeks earlier.
Madam Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles, presented remarks on behalf of the families. “As I pondered the lives of these great Hoosiers,” she told the audience, “I couldn’t help but imagine them all seated together at a magnificent banquet. What would Madam Walker–a pioneer of the modern hair care and cosmetics industries–have to say to Eli Lilly–a pioneer of the modern pharmaceutical industry–about building a business?”
Other honorees–whose lives spanned two centuries from 1768 to 1968–are Pulitzer Prize winners Booth Tarkington and Ernie Pyle, Ben-Hur author Lew Wallace, Grammy Award winner Wes Montgomery, Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Harrison, suffragette May Wright Sewall and native American leader Tecumseh. The selections were made by a panel convened by the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, a civic organization chaired by attorney Deborah Daniels.
Among the descendants and family friends who attended were Robert Montgomery, son of jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery; Ted and and Anita Sewall, representing the May Wright Sewall family; Lance Bundles, great-great-grandson of Madam Walker; and Judith Ransom-Lewis and Robert Ransom, grandchildren of Walker Company attorney F. B. Ransom.
Madam Walker Theatre Center board chair Joni Collins was joined by several staff members from the National Historic Landmark.
“With these memorials, we declare to the world who we are as Hoosiers,” Bundles said of the pillars that were designed by artist James Kelly. “With these memorials, we say what we aspire to be and we celebrate the legacies that define us.