Who was Major Taylor?
During the mid-to late 80's, Indianapolis was becoming known as the "Amateur Sports Capital of the World". The Indiana Sports Corporation, first of its kind in the country, won a bid to host the 1982 National Sports Festival, with a bit of a catch: the city had to provide a natatorium, a track stadium, and a velodrome for the competition. Thanks to a partnership between the Indianapolis Parks & Recreation Dept. and Lilly Endowment, all three were built in time for the opening events – and not just slapped together. All three venues were state-of-the-art, and continue to be used for national and international events today.
When it came time to select a name for the Velodrome, members of the Mayor's Bicycle Task Force researched a little-known figure from Indianapolis history: Marshall "Major" Taylor. Tom Healy, at the time a writer for the Indianapolis News, was able to locate Sidney Taylor Brown, Taylor's daughter, who at the time was living in Pittsburgh. Hearing of their interest in her father, she was able to provide a first-person viewpoint to what they knew of his lifetime. Having not been born until Major Taylor was an international cycling star, she had only heard tales of his early years and upbringing in Indianapolis, and many of those tales were of racism and being banned from racing on both the Newby Oval and the Capital City velodromes at age 15.
Fred Evans, also on the Mayor's Bicycle Task Force, and Healy talked to Mrs. Brown several times during the ensuing months, while taking their proposal to several different business groups in town. Finally, after meeting with then-Mayor William Hudnut and Parks Dept. Director Art Strong, they took their case to the Parks Board, and the Major Taylor Velodrome became the first building in Indianapolis built with public money to be named after a black person.
Mrs. Brown visited Indianapolis in 1982 for the dedication of the Velodrome, and donated several of her father's artifacts to the Indiana State Museum.
Types of Bicycle Races
Championships Awarded at the Major Taylor Velodrome