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Joie Ray and Jason Pimpton - Great Great Nephew of Charlie Wiggins
Ronald Wiggins - Nephew of Charlie Wiggins
Charlie Wiggins grew up in a segregated Evansville. The KKK had come to power in Indiana and in 1924 would win every elected office at the state level. D.C. Stephenson, the head and organizing force of the Klan, was an Evansville resident. There was even talk of building a city on an Ohio River island for whites only. The city's newspapers at that time were blatantly racist and even held a contest to name the new city. Negro League baseball players, banned from white-only organized baseball, while playing exhibitions games here, called the attitudes of southern Indiana more racist than areas in the Deep South. Charlie Wiggins was a downtown Evansville shoeshine boy in those days and was fascinated with the relatively new automobiles that were coming to town. He would entertain his customers by identifying the make and model of cars by simply hearing the motors as they drove down the street. With a stroke of luck he was shining shoes outside an auto repair shop when the owner offered him a job as an apprentice. Quickly, Charlie rose to chief mechanic and became recognized as the best mechanic in the city. He would often diagnose the car's problem just by listening to the car engine. Indiana's heritage was rich and played a significant role in the development of the automotive industry. In Indianapolis, there were hundreds of makes and models being manufactured. Charlie realized that greater opportunity lay in Indianapolis and he and his wife, Roberta, whom the newspapers described as a 'fetching Evansville model', moved to the state capitol. Charlie and his wife opened a garage on Indianapolis' segregated south side and quickly established himself as the city's top mechanic. He was held in high regard by the city's elite, and particularly by white race car drivers, who were among the top contenders for the Indianapolis 500. Assembling parts from auto junkyards, Charlie built his first race car, "The Wiggins Special," which reached speeds on dusty, rutted, dirt tracks as fast as those cars racing on the smooth surface the Indianapolis Speedway. Every year Charlie would enter "The Wiggins Special" in the Indianapolis 500 and every year the governing body, The American Automobile Association, enforcing unwritten segregation rules, rejected his application. Charlie and other black drivers formed a racing association and competed among themselves at tracks around the Midwest, attracting large crowds who appreciated exciting racing and Charlie gained a reputation as the top black driver. He became known among fans as "The Negro Speed King".
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