Mayor Hogsett, state and local leaders open new Rev. Charles R. Williams Park   

The park opening comes the same week as the 39th annual Circle City Classic founded by Rev. Williams. 

INDIANAPOLIS – Today, Mayor Joe Hogsett joined Indiana Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Bortner, Councillor William “Duke” Oliver, Indy Parks, and community members to officially open the new Rev. Charles R. Williams Park.  

“This multi-million-dollar upgrade for Rev. Charles R. Williams Park represents the City’s continued and historic investment in public parks and greater connectivity between neighborhoods,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett. “Just as importantly, though, these upgrades are a further tribute to the man who gives this park his name.” 

The newly completed 5.8-acre park now hosts a playground, horseshoe courts, an open lawn area, a perimeter loop trail, a performance area, and a quarter mile trail that connects the park to the Monon Trail. The $2.6 million project was announced by Indy Parks in 2022 thanks to dedicated city funding and a $750,000 grant from the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Program through the Land Water Conservation Fund. 

“Partnerships like this open doors to great outdoor experiences of all shapes and sizes across the state,” said DNR Director Dan Bortner. “The grant application for this new park was nationally competitive because it opened doors in an area where green space was scarce. I can’t wait to see the great memories and the important habitat for wildlife this new park provides.” 

“I would like to thank Mayor Hogsett for investing in this park and Director Bortner and the DNR for partnering with us to create this unique public space that allows us to better protect the surrounding Fall Creek River,” said Indy Parks Director Phyllis Boyd. “Rev. Williams Park is one of many parks receiving a transformational investment that will provide new opportunities and enjoyment for decades to come.” 

“This park will provide a great event space, an engaging playground for children of all ages to enjoy, and an easy connection to the Monon Trail,” said Councillor Oliver. “Rev. Charles R. Williams’ work for the Black Expo, the city of Indianapolis, and local faith organizations touched so many lives. It’s a pleasure to see this beautiful park honor his legacy.” 

The park’s namesake, Rev. Charles R. Williams, became the President of Indiana Black Expo Inc. (IBE) in 1980. Rev. Williams also founded the Circle City Classic, an annual Black collegiate football game with revenues exceeding $800,000 going towards scholarships for qualifying high school students across the state of Indiana since 1984. The 2023 Circle City Classic takes place this week, Saturday, September 23rd at Lucas Oil Stadium at 3 p.m. 



Who was Rev. Charles R. Williams?

Rev. Charles R. Williams became the President of Indiana Black Expo, Inc. (IBE) in 1980, serving in a volunteer capacity until 1983 when he was able to secure a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. to fund full-time staff. In addition to paid staff, Williams used the grant to restructure IBE, double the organization’s gross revenues, develop year-round statewide programs to promote harmony among people of all races and economic growth, and create and develop the Indiana Black Expo Inc. brand resulting in IBE’s Summer Celebration being named one of the “Top 100 Events in North America” by the American Business Association.

Rev. Williams also founded the Circle City Classic, an annual Black collegiate football game with revenues exceeding $800,000 going to scholarships for qualifying high school students across the state of Indiana since 1984.

From 1976 to 1983, Rev. Williams served as Special Assistant to the Mayor of the City of Indianapolis under Mayor Richard Lugar and Mayor Bill Hudnut. In this position, he coordinated the City’s community relations efforts, which included the creation and organization of the first City-wide Black History Month celebration. Additionally, he served as the chairman of PUSH for Excellence Month, where over 5,000 high school students pledged to push for excellence in their schoolwork, and was the catalyst in making Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a holiday in the City of Indianapolis and the State of Indiana.

Influential in the selection of the City of Indianapolis’ first Black Deputy Mayor, Rev. Williams is responsible for organizing the first Indianapolis Jazz Festival in 1980, earmarking proceeds to benefit the Indianapolis Urban League and the Indianapolis Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC).

Rev. Williams was ordained as a minister in 1979. He was the first chaplain for the Indiana Pacers Basketball Corporation, engaging a dozen or so clergy across the city and was a charter board member of Pacers Foundation, Inc. While in that capacity, he played an instrumental role in the creation of the Landmark For Peace Memorial in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park. In 2001, Rev. Williams received a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Martin University. Nationally, Rev. Williams was featured in Ebony and JET Magazines, the Phil Donahue Show, and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Rev. Charles Williams was a vital asset to the State of Indiana and African-Americans nationwide. Until his death in July 2004, he served as an effective voice and leader in the fight for social and economic advancement of African-Americans.