Cover photo for Jerry Harkness's Obituary
Jerry Harkness Profile Photo
1940 Jerry 2021

Jerry Harkness

May 7, 1940 — August 24, 2021

Indianapolis, IN

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Jerald (Jerry) Harkness, a native of Harlem, New York peacefully passed away surrounded by his lovely wife and family. He was born May 7th, 1940 to Lindsay and Lucille Bailey Harkness. He was the second child of three siblings. His parents, daughter, Cynthia Denise, sisters, Ronette and Marlene Harkness preceded him in death.

Jerry accepted Christ, joining Union Baptist Church at an early age. He attended Public School in Harlem, New York. One day while shooting baskets at the Harlem YMCA, Jackie Robinson, of the Brooklyn Dodgers, approached Jerry and told him “you are not that bad!” That statement gave him motivation to try-out for the basketball team his senior year at DeWitt Clinton. This is where his athletic skills started to blossom. Jerry’s team captured the High School City Championship in basketball. He won the one-thousand-yard run (middle distance) and placed third in the city cross-country championship. Jerry capped off the season by being named the Athlete of the Year.

Jerry received a full athletic scholarship to Loyola University of Chicago. He was named captain of the team his senior year, 1962-1963. This was the year Loyola broke racial barriers playing four black players against an all-white team, the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Division One National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament. This game is known as the Game of Change. The game was preceded by the famous handshake between Jerry and Joe Dan Gold, the Mississippi State captain. Loyola won against Mississippi State. Then the Ramblers went on to beat Cincinnati for the NCAA National title. Jerry was named a Consensus All American and Most Valuable Player in an East-West All State game. He was inducted into Loyola University Athletic Hall of Fame, and his jersey #15 was retired.

Jerry graduated from Loyola with a B.S. Degree in Sociology and became the first African American store merchandiser for the Quaker Oats Company.

Jerry was drafted by the New York Knickerbockers in 1963. After a short time with the Knicks, he became a member of the American Basketball Association (ABA), playing for the Indiana Pacers. During his playing time with the Pacers in 1969, he made the longest three-point shot in basketball history to win the game.

Following Jerry’s retirement from the Pacers, he became the first African American Sportscaster for WTHR 13 and also did sports on WTLC radio. He was a sports analyst for the Indiana Pacers and Loyola University of Chicago. Jerry was the first African American fundraiser at United Way of Central Indiana. After retiring from United Way, Jerry opened an athletic footwear store, called the Athlete’s Foot.

Jerry devoted much of his time to civil rights issues. He volunteered as a city Human Rights Commissioner, was active in Police Athletic League (PAL), Southern Christian Leadership Conference, member of and Executive Director of the Indianapolis 100 Black Men Chapter, plus many other organizations. Jerry’s love for his community had him volunteering many hours, giving back and encouraging many young individuals.

Jerry received numerous awards: NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, Boys Scout-This is Your Life Award, Sports Illustrated Award, Muhammad Ali Award, Jesse Jackson-Trailblazer Award, inducted into Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame as well as the Indiana, Manhattan and Harlem Basketball Hall of Fame. Jerry and his 1963 Loyola Ramblers teammates were the first team ever to be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. One high-light of Jerry’s career was when the 63’ Loyola Ramblers team was invited to the Oval Office to meet the first African American President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Jerry enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren. He loved to travel, New York, California, Hawaii and Tennessee were a few of his favorite places. He loved cruises, especially the Soul Train cruise, because of the old school entertainment on board. Some of Jerry’s favorite pass times were playing bid whist, reading, movies and dancing. In 2018, Jerry wrote and published his autobiography called Connections.

Jerry was united in marriage with Judith Carroll, and from this union Jerald and Julie Harkness were born.

In 1991, Jerry married his soulmate and best friend Sarah Scruggs Harkness.

Jerry Harkness leaves to bear his legacy, his devoted wife of 30 years, Sarah Scruggs Harkness, son: Jerald (Barbara) Harkness, daughter: Julie (David) Arnold, grandchildren: Kara Harkness, Kiley Harkness, Anna-Grace Arnold, Ashlyn Arnold, aunts: Margaret Tiggs, Christine Harkness, brothers-in-law: Willie Scruggs, LC (Merrell) Scruggs, Ozie (Mary) Scruggs, sisters-in-law: Clardine Robertson, Charity Booker, Yolanda (Larry) Woods, host of nieces, nephews, cousins and long-time friends: Elbert (Darlene) Shamsid Deen, Jack (Mary) Egan, Ron (Patty) Miller, Rich (Carolyn) Rochelle, Oliver(Linda) Darden, as well as Loyola University of Chicago and the Indiana Pacers Organization.

Hebrews 11: 1 “Faith is the substance of things hope for and the evidence of things unseen.”

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Jerry Harkness, please visit our flower store.

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