Logan Family Gymnasium Dedication Ceremony at the new Robert Crown Community Center. Photo by Heidi Randhava

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The City of Evanston and Friends of the Robert Crown Center officially dedicated the Logan Family Gymnasium earlier this month in a ceremony attended by members of the Logan family, the Evanston Parks and Recreation Board and Friends of the Robert Crown Center.

The public was invited to attend the virtual celebration by joining the Friends of the Robert Crown Center Facebook Page.

The 10,238-square foot gymnasium – located in the new Robert Crown Community Center, 1801 Main St. – is named in honor of the Logan family, for whom service is not an option, but a way of life.

Three Generations of Service to the Community

 “Their legacy and imprint on this community speaks for itself with … three generations and counting making an impact on the quality of life in our City,” said Evanston Parks and Recreation Board Chair and Friends of the Robert Crown Center Board member Denise Barreto, who presided over the dedication, with remarks from Fourth Ward Alderman Don Wilson.

Ms. Barreto said she had the pleasure of serving on the Parks and Recreation board with Bill Logan, who was “super welcoming, unassuming and encouraging” to her when she was a new Evanstonian and young Black leader in the community.

“It was not until his retirement from the board that I realized who he was and all he’d done here in the City of Evanston … quietly but powerfully moving mountains to bring about justice and equality in our community,” said Ms. Barreto.

Friends of Robert Crown Board President Daniel Stein, Gilo Kwesi Logan and Retired Evanston Chief of Police Bill Logan Photo by Heidi Randhava

As a board member of Friends of the Robert Crown Center, Ms. Barreto was involved in the decision to name the gymnasium for the Logan family.

“Let’s be real; not many buildings or monuments have the names of people who look like me in the United States unless they are assassinated or somehow attached to the Black struggle. Historic and systemic inequities that continue to this day prohibit many in the Black American community from sponsoring and naming entities.

“So it’s a treat to serve alongside people who relish the opportunity to honor living legends among us by naming this community resource after a family that has worked across generations to ensure a safer, better educated and more just Evanston for all,” Ms. Barreto said.

Ald. Wilson addressed the Logan family in his remarks.

“When I think back to … when we were imagining this facility … first and foremost, I wanted a space that would serve generations of  families and community members.

“When I heard there was consideration for your family to be honored for the dedication, I thought it was extremely appropriate because, to me, it was a metaphor. Your family has served our community for generations, and I expect for generations to come,” said Ald. Wilson.

“A Responsibility As Well As an Honor”

Responding to the honor on behalf of the Logan family, Dr. Gilo Kwesi Logan said, “We want to thank you all for this honor…We want to thank our Evanston community. We are so appreciative.”

In his remarks, Dr. Logan said the naming of the gymnasium is a responsibility as well as an honor. “We have a lot to live up to, and we’re going to do the best that we can,” said Dr. Logan, who leads Logan Consulting Services, a leadership and diversity consulting firm.

The firm has worked with more than a dozen Evanston organizations such as McGaw YMCA, Evanston Public Library, Evanston Police Department, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and Connections for the Homeless and others.

Mr. Logan also founded S.O.U.L Creations, which has performed in more than  75 musical and theatrical productions for schools throughout Evanston. He has served on boards including McGaw YMCA, and is currently a FAAM coach and City of Evanston Reparations Education sub-committee member.

In addition to the Logan family, in-person attendees included Lawrence C. Hemingway, Director, City of Evanston Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department, and Friends of the Robert Crown Center Board President Daniel Stein, Board Vice President Amina DiMarco, and Board Secretary Peter Giangreco.

A naturally light-filled space with windows that overlook the community center’s Turf Park, the Logan Family Gymnasium is both awe inspiring and welcoming, with two full-size basketball courts. The space can be rented for events or sports activities.

“This is the largest event space in Evanston. You can have up to 499 people here,” Mr. Giangreco told the RoundTable.

Evanston Scholars’ “Pomp!” annual benefit would have been the first event held in the space, had it not been for the cancellation of large in-person gatherings due to the pandemic.

“We were really excited to be the first ones there. It’s an amazing, gorgeous space, located in the center of Evanston,” Evanston Scholars founder and executive director Steve Newman told the RoundTable. He added that Evanston Scholars looks forward to using the space when public health measures allow. 

Three generations of the Logan family were present for the dedication, including retired Bill Logan’s children, Billy Logan III, Cheryl Logan, and Gilo Kwesi Logan; son-in-law James Bottoms, daughter-in-law Miah Logan, and grandchildren Ulai, Olu and Ali Logan.

Many “Firsts” for William Logan

Bill Logan has a long list of “firsts” that date back to his years at Foster, Haven, and Evanston Township High School, where he was a three-sport star athlete and the first African American varsity football captain. He received a football scholarship to Western Illinois University, where he attended college until joining the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.

In 1957, he began a 30-year career with the Evanston Police Department, where he became the first African American Lieutenant, Captain, Deputy-Chief and Chief of Police, receiving the department’s highest “Commendation Award for Valor.”

Early in his tenure with the Police Department, he was selected to be Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s police bodyguard when Dr. King came to Evanston in 1963.

Many years later, in a MLK Day speech at ETHS, Mr. Logan shared a personal conversation the two men had as they waited for a car to take Dr. King to the airport.

“Dr. King told me, ‘You can be anything in life that you want to be – but you must be prepared – and your education will be the key to your future,’” Mr. Logan told the ETHS students.

He said he took Dr. King’s advice and completed a bachelor’s degree. He was prepared, with the required diploma in hand, when he became Evanston’s first African American Chief of Police in 1984.

After retiring from the Evanston Police Department, Mr. Logan served as Director of Safety at Evanston Township High School.

Mr. Logan’s commitment to service is a shared family value – something he learned from his parents and that he and his late wife, Marcia, passed on to their children.

Marcia Logan was the Haven Middle School health clerk for 22 years, a dedicated volunteer in District 65 schools and the fundraising committee for Community Hospital, which served Evanston’s African American community at a time when hospitals in Evanston rarely admitted African American patients. Mr. and Mrs. Logan also co-owned B & J Grocery Store and Meat Market at Church Street and Dodge Avenue.

“I have always remembered a saying my dad taught me that I have tried to live by: ‘There is a destiny that makes us brothers. None goes his way alone. What we give into the lives of others comes back into our own,’” Mr. Logan said in a speech to members of the Chessmen Club, a service organization he co-founded in 1958.

In 1967, he co-founded Fellowship of African American Men (FAAM), an after-school basketball league that includes a diversity of young people throughout the area. He has served as a dedicated board member for many organizations, including Evanston Community Foundation, Evanston History Center, McGaw YMCA, State of Illinois Human Relations Commission, and Rotary Club of Evanston.

Mr. Logan has been recognized by numerous community, state and national organizations for exemplary service to his community and country, such as the State Board of Education “Those Who Excel Award,” ETHS Distinguished Alumni Award, NAACP Living Legend Trailblazer Award, and Northeastern Illinois University Life Achievement Award, to name just a few.

Community service has long been part of daily life for members of the Logan family, with a special focus on serving youth, seniors and those in need.

“The Logan Family Gymnasium will host events, Pre-K classes, learning camps, and recreational activities for the next 50 years and beyond. We hope that all who use it will be inspired by the Logan family’s commitment to peace, justice and unity,” wrote Mr. Giangreco in an announcement of the live broadcast.

Heidi Randhava

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.