INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Indianapolis is in mourning after losing its longest-serving mayor.
Mayor Bill Hudnut’s family confirmed Sunday that the 84-year-old passed away after battling a lengthy illness.
Hudnut is the one who is credited with planting the seeds to make this city what it is today.
While he may have moved away from Indianapolis after serving 16 years in the mayor’s office, those who knew him best say the Circle City was always in his heart.
“I think the thing that he really brought to us was the idea that Indianapolis could be bigger and better than it was at that time. We didn’t have to settle for what we were,” said Dave Arland, a former press secretary for Mayor Hudnut.
Hudnut served as mayor from 1976 until 1992.
Arland says much of his drive came from a conversation he had while out of town.
“He was in the elevator with somebody and the guy said, ‘Where are you from?’ The mayor said, ‘I’m from Indianapolis.’ And the guy said, ‘Ah Indianapolis that’s just a cornfield with lights,'” said Arland.
He invested $4 billion building up downtown Indianapolis. And focused much of his attention on sports.
He saved the Pacers from moving out of state and then lured the Colts from Maryland in 1984.
“People talk about Bill Hudnut as being the man who stole the Colts. But if you asked him he’d always say, ‘Look it’s Baltimore that lost the Colts we just happened to be well-positioned,” said Arland.
Part of the Colts deal included the Hoosier Dome which was built without a team lined up.
Hudnut’s influence is still felt today.
“He was very liberal in his dispensing of advice about how the city should continue to grow and evolve,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett Sunday afternoon.
Mayor Hogsett says Mayor Hudnut was one of the first people who called him after his victory.
Even after leaving office, Hudnut was still involved with local and state politics. In the days after RFRA was signed he penned an editorial signed by five mayors, and helped plan a news conference with Mayor Greg Ballard.
Before becoming mayor, he served one term in the House of Representatives. After leaving office he served on the town council and as mayor of Chevy Chase, Maryland
“If you’re a young kid growing up in the great depression I think that makes you a little bit aware of thinking about other people,” said Edward Frantz, Director of the Institute for Civic Leadership and Mayoral Archives at the University of Indianapolis. The Institute archived of the mayor’s term.
Mayor Hudnut’s family says two public services are being planned, one in Indianapolis and another in Washington DC.
Dates haven’t been set.
He is survived by his wife and four children.
For more on the Mayoral Archives at the University of Indianapolis, click here.