June 19, 2013
CHICAGO - Former Loyola University Chicago men's basketball All-American Jerry Harkness, who helped the Ramblers to the 1963 NCAA championship 50 years ago, will be presented with the Muhammad Ali Athlete Award at the 39th Annual Giants Awards dinner on June 24. The awards ceremony, which is hosted by former Chicago Park District superintendent Ed Kelly's Sports Foundation, will be held at the White Eagle Restaurant in Niles (6839 N. Milwaukee Ave.).
When his playing days at Loyola concluded, Harkness, a native of the Bronx, ranked first on Loyola's career scoring chart with 1,749 points, a total that now ranks fifth in school history. The 6-foot-3 forward averaged 21.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in his illustrious career and during the Ramblers' championship run in 1962-63, pitched in 21.0 ppg and 8.7 rpg.
Despite all of his accomplishments, Harkness may be best known for his role in the famous Game of Change versus Mississippi State in East Lansing, Mich., in the 1963 NCAA Regional. Mississippi State was forced to escape town before an injunction could be served that would have prevented the all-white Maroons from playing the game against an integrated Loyola squad that featured four African-American starters.
When Harkness and MSU captain Joe Dan Gold shook hands during the pregame captain's meeting, that symbolic gesture helped to change civil rights in the South and particularly in Mississippi.
Following his professional basketball career, which included being drafted by the New York Knicks, as well as a stint with the ABA's Indiana Pacers, Harkness went on to a successful business career. After working as the first African-American salesman for Quaker Oats, and the first African-American fundraiser in Indianapolis for the United Way of Greater Indianapolis, Harkness was the first African-American sports anchor at WTHR-TV in Indianapolis.
Harkness is a member of the Loyola Athletics Hall of Fame and he and his Rambler teammates from that 1963 squad will be inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame in September and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November.