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One of state’s 1st integrated basketball teams, with CMA link, recognized

Jeff Kenney

Historical marker installed near the intersection of School Street and Lake Shore Drive in Culver.


A historical marker recognizing one of Indiana’s first integrated basketball teams, including family members of two longtime staff members of Culver Military Academy, was dedicated in the town of Culver.

The double-sided metal sign, located near the intersection of School Street and Lake Shore Drive and dedicated officially on Feb. 24, recognizes on one side the significance of one of the earliest integrated basketball teams in Indiana, a 1922 Culver High School team that included Black players Charles Wesley Wade Jr. CHS ’23 (1905-1944) and Palmer Deane Whitted CHS ’24 (1907-1982). Family members of Wade and Whitted were longtime CMA staff members during the first half of the 20th century. 

The other side of the sign commemorates the state’s 113-point all-time record individual high score in a single game, a score credited to Herman Earl Sayger (1895-1970), only a junior when Culver High School beat Winamac 154-10 on March 8, 1913. Born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Sayger was a 6-year-old orphan when he arrived in Culver to live with his aunt, Mary Medbourn. After his senior year at the public school (during which he averaged 29.5 points per game), and appointment to the 1914 All-State basketball team, he was a multi-sport post-graduate at Culver Military Academy lettering in three sports. 

Sayger was an outstanding athlete at Heidelberg University in Ohio, where he later served as head football coach and athletic director. In March of 1932, he organized an exhibition basketball game with proposed new rules, including the three-point shot and not having a jump ball after each basket. He also invented a system of hand signals for use by football officials. The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame inducted Sayger to membership in 2015.

From the 1922 team, Wade became a postal employee in Chicago and was killed while working at a part-time job. Whitted earned a master’s degree at the University of Michigan, taught in high schools and colleges, operated a noted mortuary in Oakland, California, and worked as a PR agent for the Raiders football team. His son was a TV actor under the name Palmer Deane. Whitted’s brother, David Winslow Whitted, joined the Culver High School team the next year, and went on to play for Coach Sayger at Heidelberg; his family lives in New Orleans.

Leading the fundraising efforts for the sign was the Rev. John Houghton, Ph.D., CMA class of 1971 and vice president of the Culver Historical Society, which provided administrative assistance. Also supporting the effort was Chet Marshall III '73 (whose father, Chet Marshall, was an athletic legend at Culver Academies as teacher, coach, and athletic director), Historical Society member J.D. Castleman, Culver natives Dave Kelly and Janet Baker and Culver Academies Museum & Archives Manager Jeff Kenney, a member of the Historical Society's Board of Trustees. 

The marker's location near the entrance to the current elementary school pays tribute to the legacy of Culver High School, where the honored players attended school, though at the time of the integrated team and Sayger's play for the school, notes Houghton, Culver High School hadn't yet built a gymnasium. Instead, he notes that “these games were played in Captain Crook’s Hall, in what’s now an apartment building over on Pearl Street—but that didn’t seem like a great place to put up a sign.”

Houghton also extended thanks to the Culver Community Schools Building Trades Program, which installed the sign under the leadership of its director, Kyle Elliott, whose wife Lori is a longtime teacher and coach at Culver Academies. Houghton added appreciation for the Culver town council, which allowed the sign to be set up in the right of way.


Kyle Elliott, Culver Community Schools Building Trades director, the Rev. John Houghton '71, Culver Academies Museum and Archives Manager Jeff Kenney, J.D. Castleman of the Culver Historical Society, Chet Marshall III '73 and Dave Kelly, who worked as a volunteer in coordinating fabrication of the sign.  (Photo by Dennis Bottorff, Culver Citizen)




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