For the longest time, Charlie Wiggins and his beloved wife Roberta had an unmarked gravesite at Crown Hill Cemetery. That changed when Todd Gould, ten-time Emmy Award-winning writer, produced "For Gold and Glory" for PBS television and wrote the book, For Gold and Glory. In 2003 a group of anonymous donors were inspired by Gould's work to create a memorial that etched the story of a racing legend in stone forever.
Mr. Gould's book, "tells the little-known story of a highly celebrated auto-racing event for African Americans, the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes. These races were held in Indiana and throughout the Midwest during the racial turbulence of the 1920's and 1930's, when the Ku Klux Klan cast a shadow over the social and political landscape of the state and region. The story is told through the eyes and emotions of Indianapolis auto mechanic Charlie Wiggins. The greatest African American driver of the era, Wiggins was known as the "Negro Speed King." Set against the colorful backdrop of gangsters, bootleggers, the birth of jazz, and the early history of auto racing in the United States, For Gold and Glory chronicles the tragedies and triumphs of a dedicated group of individuals who overcame tremendous odds to chase their dreams."
Charlie Wiggins won the Gold & Glory Sweepstakes three times on the dirt track at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. He wanted to compete at the Indianapolis 500 but bigotry prevented him from doing so. And despite his talent, he was also barred from openly working as a mechanic in the pit crew. The 500's 1934 champ, Bill Cummings, had Wiggins work in his pit but had him listed as a janitor. Cummings considered Wiggins instrumental in his victory.
The granite memorial in Section 100 at Crown Hill Cemetery preserves and promotes the legacy of Charlie Wiggins, auto racing pioneer, and his wife Roberta. "For Gold & Glory" is inscribed on their headstone. A vintage photograph on ceramic tile is inset between their names. It shows the young couple posed in 1926 in the "Wiggins Special," a car Charlie built. He is wearing his racing skull cap and goggles, Roberta sits perched beside him smiling. That year's trophy for the Gold & Glory Sweepstakes rests on the hood.
"The Negro Speed King, that's what they called him,"
remembered Charlie's wife, Roberta. "All those people
would come out to the fair grounds for those big races.
And, my! Charlie always had something to show 'em.
Those folks were just crazy about him. Any wife would
be scared to watch her husband carry on so. And I was
scared for Charlie. But Charlie wasn't scared of nothin'.
Charlie was the best."
For Gold & Glory