Hudnut: The height of loss


December 18, 2016 2:10 PM

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I’m not among the worshippers of Bill Hudnut, for reasons not worth going into at this sad and historic moment. I will say I mourn his passing, not only as a gallant man of bona fide faith but as a vestige of the Republicanism that used to speak to all Americans.

True to Lincoln, the party of Ike and Javits and Brooke and Hudnut’s predecessor as Indy mayor, Dick Lugar, proposed to address racial inequality, cared about cities and maintained a detente between labor and capital that demonstrated the value of high-end taxation to overall prosperity.

Under Lugar and Hudnut, rarities among GOP big-city mayors, Indianapolis grew out of its history of polite segregation and leveraged resources from Big Bad Washington to extend the calendars of the outside world that tended to notice us and invest in us during May.

We can debate how well the World Class City agenda worked, and for whom. I’m interested today in one memory.

During the 1980s, Hudnut found himself at loggerheads with a Reagan civil rights chief named Clarence Pendleton, an anti-agency token black much in the Clarence Thomas mold. The shill went on the attack against an affirmative action plan for diversifying Indy’s police and fire ranks, and Hudnut vigorously defended the pact reached between the locals and (previous) feds. Pendleton, blithely ignorant of our circumstances, mocked the mayor in a manner that the Kellyanne Conways of today ominously evoke. The white Republican urban leader stood his ground and prevailed, a posture and outcome hard to imagine today from his party or many Democratic officials.

Integrity and inclusion. There was a time those lived ideals were kind of expected. Remembrance of Bill Hudnut must not brush over their loss.

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