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Archives and Special Collections


Calling on Roosevelt alumni, educators, staff, and parents, we want to preserve your stories and memories of Roosevelt.

Participants are encouraged to reflect on their Panther experience. Reflections may include fond memories of attending class, making life-long friends, a challenge you experienced, a favorite educator, your studies, or even discussing why Roosevelt helped you in your path today. We want to know more about Roosevelt’s story, as told through your voices, whether you are an alumni, former educator, or support staff. Your story is important in helping preserve the rich history that is, Gary Roosevelt

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Click the submit button to access the online submission form.

Photograph of Roosevelt School

Photograph of students walking out of Theodore Roosevelt High School. Courtesy of the Indiana University Northwest Archives & Special Collections.

Gary Roosevelt: A Brief History

Gary Roosevelt’s origins date back to 1908 as a one-room schoolhouse located at 12th and Massachusetts Street. Everett D. Simpson was the first teacher employed. During this time, historically referred to as the Jim Crow Era, the City of Gary School Board segregated its schools. Portable classrooms were made available as the population increased in the city. This established what would be known as the “Roosevelt Annex,” located at Twenty-fifth Avenue and Harrison. In 1927 over 600 white students at Emerson School engaged in a four-day walkout over the inclusion of 18 African American students. In some circumstances, students were transferred into white schools if the classroom itself was segregated. Responding to this measure, the City of Gary announced plans to build a new school for African Americans. Theodore Roosevelt High School was officially dedicated in 1931 in the Midtown region of Gary, Indiana.

F. C. McFarlane was named the first principal of Roosevelt. Evelyn Baptiste was the first student to receive a diploma. Following McFarlane, H. Theo Tatum assumed responsibility as principal. He served in this role for twenty-eight years. The principals that followed Tatum, Warren Anderson, Robert E. Jones, and David Williams, guided the school through physical expansion, increased enrollment, countless athletic victories, and the Civil Rights Era. 

In 1955, the Roosevelt Panthers played the Crispus Attucks Tigers of Indianapolis in the state's high school basketball championship game. In what would come to be known as the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, this was the first time two African American teams competed in a championship match. Though Roosevelt did not win the title, this remains a significant moment for the region's history and the story of this nation.

Roosevelt was the first school in Gary, and only one of three schools in the State, constructed exclusively for African American children. During Roosevelt’s height, it was one of the largest African American schools in the Midwest. In 2012, Roosevelt was added to the National Register for Historic Places. During this time, the Indiana State Board of Education assumed control over the school and contracted duties to EdisonLearning. The name was changed to Roosevelt College and Career Academy. In 2020, during the Pandemic, Roosevelt officially closed. The student body merged with existing schools, including Gary’s West Side Leadership Academy.

The Panthers have a reputation for strong pride, academic excellence, positive influence, stellar athletics, community engagement, and family. Notable alums of Roosevelt include NBA stars Dick Barnett and Glenn Robinson, Lee Calhoun, members of the World Famous Jackson family, actor Avery Brooks, co-founder of Vee-Jay Records Vivian Carter, the Spaniels musical group, Hon. Robert Rucker, and many, many more. Roosevelt's legacy and history still live through its extensive alumni network. Collecting these stories is crucial in order to preserve the personal history of the school. Indiana University Northwest has been an active community partner in preserving the story of Gary and the greater Calumet region. These recollections will be preserved by the Calumet Regional Archives. (consulted references).

Pauline Byrd Atkins Tatum 84'

"It is a privilege to be born into a family legacy in which my grandfather, who served as principal from 1933-1961, paved the way for African Americans to succeed locally and nationally. It is a call of urgency that my late parents Robert Trufant Tatum Sr. '40, and Bessye Atkins Tatum ‘47 (salutatorian), aunt, the late Joyce Tatum Morgan, ‘36, uncles Harbart Theodore Tatum ‘38, Richard Trufant Tatum ‘47, and cousin Dr. Randall Morgan ’61. It is an obligation, to pass on this historical legacy to generations to keep the memories of Gary Roosevelt High School alive through our stories. It is a call of urgency of this national landmark." 

Photographs of all the Gary Roosevelt Principals.

Principals of Gary Roosevelt

FAQ's about this Project

What type of content is this project looking for?

The purpose of this project is to preserve the stories and legacies of those affiliated with Gary Roosevelt. Participants are encouraged to reflect on their time at school, whether they were students, educators, or staff. Reflections may include fond memories of going to class, making life-long friends, a challenge you experienced, a favorite educator, or even discussing why Roosevelt helped you in your path today. In addition to reflections, you may submit other materials such as scrapbooks, photographs, diaries, etc. You may submit in-person if you prefer by contacting the archives.

Who can Contribute?

Anyone! However, the goal of this project is to record the histories of alumni, educators, staff members, or anyone associated with Gary Roosevelt. Participants must be 18 years or older. 

How do I Contribute?

Use the online form to submit your contribution electronically. You may submit your response based on your preferred format. For instance, you may submit a Word document, a video recording, photographs, or scanned images (such as handwritten reflections). If you need assistance submitting, ask the archivist!

Can I submit more than once?

Yes. For example, if you submit a personal reflection using the form, you may submit a second time with photographs or another format.

Why is electronic submission encouraged?

This project is looking for electronic submissions primarily because alumni and educators may reside in different parts of the country today. This option allows them to be included. Furthermore, by drafting a personal reflection and submitting yourself, you are taking personal ownership of the preservation of your own story, seeing it through from creation to submission. 

Electronic submissions also permit less labor on the archives staff to scan/digitize content. However, if you are unable to submit electronically and would like to submit in person, you may reach out to the IUN Archives to discuss and schedule a time to donate.

Are there limitations to my submission? 

Please do not submit responses that expose individual financial, personal, or health-related information or third parties. 

What happens after I submit?

Your contributions add to the collective history of Gary Roosevelt. Your time and energy are much appreciated! After you submit, you should receive an automatic reply thanking you. But all submissions will be preserved by the Indiana University Northwest Archives. If you have questions please do not hesitate to reach out to the archives.