Civil rights activist and former Pacers player Jerry Harkness dies at 81


Harkness was a member of Loyola Chicago's famed 'Game of Change' team

INDIANAPOLIS – Former Indiana Pacers player and civil rights activist Jerry Harkness has died at the age of 81.

Harkness was one of the original members of the Pacers in their ABA days.

Born in Harlem, New York, Harkness played collegiately at Loyola Chicago, where he led the team to a national championship during the 1962-1963 season.

Harkness and the team were part of the “Game of Change,” a second-round milestone matchup pitting the integrated Loyola squad against an all-white Mississippi State team.

The point guard was drafted in 1963 by the New York Knicks. He played two seasons for the Pacers in the ABA.

Harkness, the first Black spokesman for Quaker Oats and Indianapolis’ first Black sportscaster, was an outspoken advocate for civil rights who worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1970s and served as executive director for the Indianapolis chapter of the civic organization 100 Black Men.

Harkness is a member of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame and the Loyola Athletics Hall of Fame. He and teammates from his 1963 Loyola team were honored at the White House in 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their national championship.

The Pacers released a statement on Harkness’ death:

We are saddened to learn of the passing of Jerry Harkness, whose accolades as a gifted athlete and basketball player were outweighed only by his servant’s heart and commitment to others.

He was loved for his selflessness and service, and it was clear to all that what motivated him most was his relentless passion for growing community.

Jerry was a true Hall of Famer, on and off the court, and all of us at Pacers Sports & Entertainment will keep him and his family in our prayers.

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