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Anderson dedicates mural of Johnny Wilson and Carl Erskine’s friendship

By Thomas Ouellette, IPR News | Published on in Arts and Culture, Community, Local News
The building at 14th and Meridian where the mural of Erskine and Wilson is located (Thomas Ouellette)

A historic friendship in Anderson has been commemorated with a new mural this week. IPR’s Thomas Ouellette reports on the depictions of baseball player Carl Erskine and basketball player Johnny Wilson.

Erskine and Wilson grew up in Anderson together and would become separated as their professional careers took off.  Erskine played baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Wilson played basketball in the Negro League and then for the Harlem Globetrotters.

The mural, which spans the side of two buildings at 14th and Meridian, depicts the lives of Erskine and Wilson.  It starts in their youth, includes their careers, and ends with them reuniting in their later years.

At a Thursday unveiling, family and friends of both athletes spoke of the divide the two crossed as children during a time when such a friendship was criticized.  Erskine is White and Wilson is Black.

Ted Green produced the documentary on the life of Carl Erskine titled “The Best We’ve Got,” and spoke at the event.

“It all started with Carl and Johnny. Two little boys in a back alley, bucking every societal trend to becoming lifelong friends.”

Read More: Muncie’s Arc training institute named for Erskine and Green

Wilson died in 2019 and Erskine died this April.  Loose Funeral Homes event coordinator Jane Loose, who helped organize the mural commemoration, said Erskine approved of the depictions of the two men.

“Carl Erskine was able to see this painting and he only gave approval of us to do this painting simply because we we’re going to put his best friend John Wilson in the painting also.”

A plaque with a brief description the two men’s history was placed at the foot of the mural.

The Madison County Community Foundation provided the funding for the mural and applauded the work of its artist Pamela Bliss.

Stadium themed food including pretzels, hotdogs, and popcorn was also served after the ceremony.

Thomas Ouellette is our reporter and producer.  Contact him at thomas.ouellette@bsu.edu.