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CRA018 -- George Chacharis Papers - Gary, Indiana


4.25 Linear Feet
Collection Begun: June 1985
Revised January 1991
Revised September 1996
Revised June 2012
Inventory written by: Mark A. Vargas


The George Chacharis Collection was donated to the Calumet Regional Archives in two parts. The first was donated by George Chacharis in 1975, and the second by John Diamond on September 19, 1983.

Property rights of the Collection are held by the Calumet Regional Archives; literary rights are dedicated to the public. There are no restrictions on access to the Collection.

Linear feet of shelf space: 4.25 Linear Feet
Number of containers: 7 Boxes
Calumet Regional Archives Collection Number 18
Processed By: Mark A. Vargas
Date: June 1985

Scope and Content

The Collection documents the life of George Chacharis, former mayor of Gary, from 1925 to 1981. The only record of Chacharis' early life is several photographs of him as a young man, the first taken when he was about seventeen years old. The Collection emphasizes the years 1959 to 1964, when Chacharis was mayor, and later imprisoned for tax evasion.

The manuscript series dates from 1952 to 1981. The greatest amount of material can be found in the years 1959 to 1964. The series does not contain many official documents from City Hall; rather, most of it consists of personal letters and cards to and from the mayor. Chacharis was either loved or hated by his constituents, and the correspondence aptly demonstrates the fact. Chacharis' quarrels with the Gary Chamber of Commerce (GCC) and Post-Tribune are evident in the letters he wrote. Chacharis' resignation letter from the GCC can be found in Correspondence, 1960-1962. A sardonic list of phrases written by Chacharis describing the Post-Tribune can be found in the folder labeled Correspondence, no date. The researcher may find much valuable information in the Speeches folder; many of Chacharis' orations while Mayor are included. Especially notable are both the rough and completed drafts of the speech given when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King visited in June 1962.

The researcher will also note the Collection contains Chacharis' declaration of candidacy for mayor, his official certificate of election, and his resignation letter. Included with the resignation is correspondence explaining why Chacharis decided to give up his position as mayor.

The Collection has a complete record of the Fadell trial. Tom Fadell, friend and ally of Chacharis, was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice. During the trial Fadell and Chacharis became enemies, and the former filed a lawsuit against his one-time mentor. Chacharis' complete testimony in the Fadell trial is included, as well as his subpoena to testify.

The photographic series almost entirely encompasses the years 1959-1962, when Chacharis was mayor. However, several photographs of Chacharis as a young man are present in envelope number 6 and envelope number 14. The researcher may find useful the photographs of Club SAR and Senator John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., both of whom visited Gary during Chacharis term as mayor. Also, the photographs used in Gary: A Pictorial History (a copy of which is in the Archives) can be found in their own envelopes. Photographs of Gary milestones, such as the Golden Jubilee celebration and the opening of Gilroy Stadium, are located in their respective envelopes. The clipping series is a record (mostly of Gary Post- Tribune stories) of Chacharis's trial for tax evasion. The newsclippings begin in September 1961 when U. S. investigations of Lake County were started, and end in 1964 when Chacharis was released from Federal prison. The second folder consists mainly of newspaper political advertisements and broadsides.

Box number 4, consisting of artifacts, such as plaques, are located in the Calumet Regional Archives Artifacts Collection. For further information see Historical Information (Box 1, Folder 1); the Gary Chamber of Commerce Records (CRA 1); City of Gary Collection (CRA 10); Clifford Minton Papers (CRA 160); Gary Historical Society Collection (CRA 63); Gary Redevelopment Commission Records (CRA 154); Ray J. Madden Papers (CRA 103); the Post-Tribune Library Collection (CRA 184); Knotts-Bowers Collection (CRA 2); W. J. Schroeder Collection (CRA 26); Elwood B. Lifield Collection (CRA 54).

Historical Sketch

George Chacharis was born in Thebes, Greece on February 11, 1908, the youngest of three sons. His father Demetrius was a cattle buyer who travelled widely for the business, including three trips to America. Fearful of being drafted into the Greek army during World War I, Demetrius (now a widower) fled to Italy. In August 1918 the Chacharis family arrived in New York City and took a train to Gary's Central District, where friends lived.

Young George became the first altar boy at SS. Constantine And Helen Church, and a student at Froebel High School. There, he managed the football and basketball teams, beginning a life-long affiliation with sports. In his spare time Chacharis worked in a Greek coffeehouse, delivered Greek-language newspapers, and became a sports reporter for the Gary Post-Tribune.

Following his 1926 graduation from Froebel, Chacharis attended the University of Athens for one year. He returned to Gary however, fearful of being drafted into the Greek army. He took a job at United States Steel Gary Works as a roll greaser and was promoted within ten years to typist, steel charger, expeditor, valuation clerk, estimator, and chief project engineer. Chacharis resigned from U. S. Steel on January 3, 1949 to buy and operate the General Coal and Oil Company. Within a year he had secured contracts with Methodist and Mercy Hospitals, the county poor farm, and the Township Relief Office.

In October 1932 Chacharis organized Club SAR, which was dedicated to promoting social, athletic, and recreational activities in the depression-era Central District. Club SAR became noted for its relief efforts, sponsorship of sporting events, and successful politicians. In the 1946 township election Chacharis put together a victorious ethnic slate, including Club SAR members Steve Gersack, Nic Schirallie, and Peter Mandich. On November 6, 1951, Mandich was elected Mayor of Gary. He promptly appointed Chacharis as City Controller.

Chacharis was known for his willingness to listen to everyone. The controllers office bristled with activity with Chacharis speaking to scores of people in a single day.

In 1955 Mandich became the first Gary mayor to win re-election. Three years later, however, Mandich resigned, allowing Chacharis, his old mentor, to step into the Mayor's office on July 16 without being elected.

Unlike Mandich, Chacharis attended to the most minute administrative details and publicity campaigns. He claimed to know 10,000 Garyites by name and another 30,000 by sight. He gave gifts to countless charitable causes and friends in need. The mayor dispensed patronage to black residents, a first in Gary history, including Gary's first black cabinet member, City Attorney Harry O. Schell. He welcomed Dr. Martin Luther King to the city and predicted Gary would have a black mayor within a decade.

In 1959 Chacharis ran for a full term as mayor, winning 72 per cent of the vote, the largest landslide in Gary's history. The major political battle during his mayoral years was the Chacharis-sponsored campaign to make the Gary-Hobart Water Company a municipal corporation. During John Kennedy's campaign trip to Gary in 1960, for example, Chacharis used bottled water at the official banquet. Chacharis lost in the referendum by a 2 to 1 margin, and more importantly, it cost him any support from the Post-Tribune, U. S. Steel, the Chamber of Commerce, and good-government organizations.

The decline and fall of Chacharis' political power began in July 1961, when Justice Department agent Jay Goldberg came to Gary to investigate Metro Holovachka, Chacharis' predecessor as city controller. Goldberg became angry at the lack of cooperation of city officials, and the Internal Revenue Service provided check stubs from corporations that did business with the city, implicating Chacharis and others. Some people believed the Post-Tribune, U.S. Steel, and Gary-Hobart Water added their influence against Chacharis in revenge and to cut down on adversary who was getting "too big for his britches."

On February 21, 1962, a grand jury indicted Chacharis and five others for conspiring to avoid payment of taxes on money collected illegally from firms doing business with the city. By the time the trial began in Hammond Federal Court in November 1962, Goldberg had compiled a list of 75 witnesses, including businessmen willing to testify (with immunity) that they had paid kickbacks totalling more than $226,000 while Chacharis was controller. On December 12th Chacharis resigned as mayor, and pleaded guilty to the charges. Charges were then dropped against three of the five co-defendants. On January 18, 1963, Chacharis was sentenced to three years in prison and fined $10,000.

Chacharis was paroled on December 18, 1964. He returned to Gary and held a staff position in the office of Calumet Township Assessor Tom Fadell until 1977. His relationship with Fadell turned sour, however, and the latter unsuccessfully sued Chacharis and three others on January 18, 1977 for "having accused of malfeasance in office and nefarious conduct and publishing the same, both in writing and orally, to various persons in the community." Fadell was later sent to prison for misconduct. Chacharis then worked for Lake County Assessor Michael Jankovich until a few weeks before his death. In 1983 Gary Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher accused Chacharis of backing the candidacy of Thomas Crump, Hatcher's main opponent. Chacharis hand-delivered a reply to Hatcher which stated, "Get yourself another whipping boy. As far as I am concerned, you can have as many terms as you desire and even take City Hall home with you." At 6:15 p.m. on August 17, 1983 George Chacharis died of a brain tumor at the Methodist Hospital, Southlake Campus.

Box Folder Description
1 1 Historical Information, 1975, 1983
2 Correspondence, 1952-1959
3 Correspondence, 1960-1962
4 Correspondence, 1963
5 Correspondence, 1964
6 Correspondence, 1965
7 Correspondence, 1966
8 Correspondence, 1967
9 Correspondence, 1968
10 Correspondence, 1969
11 Correspondence 1970
12 Correspondence, 1974
13 Correspondence, 1971-1973, 1975-1981, 1983
14 Correspondence, Greek Language, 1960-1961
1 15 Correspondence, n.d.
16 Declaration of Candidacy for Mayor; Certificate of Election, 1959
17 Correspondence and Letter of Resignation, 1962
18 Certificate of Parole, 1963-1964
19 Speeches, 1959-1962
20 Minutes, Membership Lists, Hellenic Society, 1961-1965
21 Minutes, Meeting to Study Gary Assessment Values, 1968 (?)
22 Correspondence and Legal Documents, Fadell Case, 1970-1971, 1974, 1976-1979
23 Report, Board of Inquiry Study of Aviation Commissioners, 1961
24 Report, Civil Rights and Race Relations in Gary, 1961
25 Report, Requirements for Information Services, 1961
26 Report, North Miller Study, 1962
27 Official Appointments, 1961
28 Precinct Committeemen, 1970
29 Passport, Travel Itinerary, 1960, 1966, 1972
1 30 Reports, Income Taxes, 1956, 1958
31 Financial Records, 1946-1947, 1955-1956, 1962
32 City of Gary Budget Material, 1961-1962
33 Leases, 1967, 1971
34 Correspondence and Leases, Gateway Project, 1968-1969
35 U. S. Steel Tax Evaluation, 1956, 1971
36 Correspondence, Certificate, Principles of Sanitary Landfill Course, 1971
37 Pamphlets, Gary-Hobart Water, 1954, 1960
38 Pamphlets, Political Campaigns, 1955-1967, 1971, 1974
39 Pamphlets, Testimonial Dinners and Conventions, 1953-1961
40 Pamphlets, Testimonial Dinners and Conventions, 1962-1963, 1974-1975, 1981
41 Pamphlet, Club Sar Silver Anniversary, 1957

Series: Oversize
Box Description
3 Chacharis for Mayor sticker, 1959
Kennedy and Chacharis in an Automobile, 1960
Photograph of Chacharis, n.d.
Organizational Chart of Gary, n.d.
Deed Making Chacharis Honorary Citizen of New Orleans, March 8, 1959
One Photograph City of Gary Administration (Chacharis Mayor)
One Photograph Democratic National Committee Dinner, September 14, 1953

Series: Artifacts (in CRA Artifacts Collection)
Box Description
4 Kennedy Delegate Button and Ribbon, 1960
AAU Track Meet Award, 1961
U. S. Marines Honorary Corporalship Award, February 2, 1961
Diamond Jubilee Reunion Award, July 18, 1981
State of Israel Bonds Award, April 30, 1961

Box Folder Description
6 1-25 Transcript, United States of America vs. George Chacharis, Willmar Chulock, Harold Zweig, Peter Mandich, John Diamond, and Peter Chacharis, 1962 (Volumes 1-25)
7 1-5 Transcript, United States vs George Chacharis et al, 1962 (Volumes 26-29; 31)
6 Transcript, United States vs Willmar Chulock, 1963

Addition of September 1996
Box Folder Description
7 7 Personal correspondence, 1961-1962
8 Tax returns, (1962-1982)
9 Christmas lists, 1977-1979

Sound Recordings (stored in CRA audio collection)
Tape, (1), Mayor George Chacharis Candidacy Announcement, February 18, 1959
Tape, (1), Mayor George Chacharis Election Announcement, November 1, 1959
Tape, (1), Mayor George Chacharis Speech During Visit of Edward G. Budd of the Budd Company, June 1962
Tape, (1), U.S Army Reserve Civic Ceremony, Indiana University Northwest, 1962
Tape, (1), Robert F. Kennedy Speech, Jasper, Indiana (?), ca. 1960
Tapes, (2), Inaugural of City Council Officers, January 2, 1962
Tape, (1), Hearing, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Midwest Steel Company Lake Fill Permit, 1960 (Side 1); Gary Barbershop Show, 1960 (Side 2)
Tape, (1), Mayor George Chacharis Birthday Dinner Speech, 1962

Film (stored in CRA video collection)
Film, (1--2 copies), Dedication of Judge Gary Statue, June 1958

Subject Tracings
  • Chacharis, George
  • Club SAR
  • Elections
  • Fadell, Thomas R.
  • Gary
  • Goldberg, Arthur
  • Hatcher, Richard Gordon
  • Katz, A. Martin
  • Kennedy, John Fitzgerald
  • Kennedy, Robert F.
  • King, Martin Luther Jr.
  • Mandich, Peter
  • Midwest Steel Company
  • Politics
  • Post-Tribune
  • Snyder, H. B.
  • United States Steel Corporation