Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher

Speaker Bio

Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher's picture
Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher

Richard Gordon Hatcher
Former Mayor
Gary, Indiana

The 13th child of a Georgia-born factory worker, the young Richard Gordon Hatcher worked his way through Indiana University and Valparaiso University’s School of Law. As an attorney, his early work included landmark struggles to end discrimination and segregation in Gary’s hospitals, school system, neighborhoods, public parks and beaches.

As a councilman, Mayor Hatcher traveled to Mississippi, risking his life to investigate civil rights violations, and in 1963, authored and steered passage of the city’s groundbreaking Open Housing Law to fight the historical segregation in Gary.

Despite death threats, voter fraud, and intimidation Mayor Hatcher won his first mayoral election in 1967 to become the first African American mayor of a major American city.

Mayor Hatcher spent all of his 20 years in office working to fulfill the promise of diversity and inclusion to the people of Gary, bringing jobs, housing, and social programs to the city and appointing Gary’s first African American police and fire chiefs.  While serving as mayor, Mayor Hatcher and Randall Robinson of TransAfrica, began the “Free South Africa” movement.  The movement quickly spread to cities and college campuses across America helping to end the racist regime.

With a vision to extend a helping and welcoming hand to those citizens historically denied opportunity, Mayor Hatcher led numerous initiatives with enduring impact and through the city’s Affirmative Action Plan, more than $15 million in contracts went to minority companies from the Sanitary District alone.

In his own words on the night he was first elected, Mayor Hatcher proclaimed “We shall lead the way for the whole country to follow.  We shall prove that urban America need not wallow in decay, that our cities can be revived and their people rejuvenated.“  #SaveOurCIties