Charlie Wiggins: the ‘Negro Speed King’ Colored Speedway Association driver also was a skilled mechanic | African-American News and Black History

AutoRacing, Black History Month, Charlie Wiggins -

Charlie Wiggins: the ‘Negro Speed King’ Colored Speedway Association driver also was a skilled mechanic

AutoRacing, Black History Month, Charlie Wiggins -

Charlie Wiggins: the ‘Negro Speed King’ Colored Speedway Association driver also was a skilled mechanic

Charlie Wiggins, the “Negro Speed King,” was a driver and mechanic who fought segregation in auto racing in the early 20th century.

Born: July 15, 1897

Died: March 11, 1979

His story: Wiggins, born in Evansville, Indiana, competed in the segregated Midwest. He also was a top mechanic in Evansville before moving to Indianapolis and opening a repair shop. He built his own race car, the Wiggins Special, from parts from the junkyard. Denied entry into the Indianapolis 500, Wiggins and other black drivers in 1924 formed the Colored Speedway Association. The association’s championship race was the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes, a 100-mile race on the dirt track at the Indianapolis Fairgrounds. Wiggins won the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes three times. In 1936, Wiggins lost a leg and an eye after a 13-car crash in the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes and had to retire from racing. He made himself a wooden leg and continued to build and fix cars. He fought for black participation in auto racing until his death at age 82.

Fast fact: IndyCar pilot Bill Cummings hired Wiggins in 1934 to tune up his race car for the Indianapolis 500. Wiggins pretended to be a janitor to bypass Jim Crow laws. He swept floors during the day and worked as a mechanic at night.

Quotable: “On Oct. 2, 1927, Wiggins won a race in Quakertown, Pennsylvania on a one-mile dirt track at an average speed of 81.6 miles per hour. One week earlier, IndyCar pilot Frank Lockhart, driving a top of the line racing car, had set the one-mile dirt track record at 82.826. Wiggins had come within 1.2 seconds of eclipsing Lockhart’s world record, in a homemade car!” For Gold & Glory author Todd Gould told roadandtrack.com.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.


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