Gary Mayor Rudy Clay (left) rehearses with his dance partner Toni Simpson at the Glen Theater in Gary, Tuesday, June 2, 2009. Clay and other local dignitaries were preparing for the theater’s live take on the popular “Dancing with the Stars” show.
About as far back as 1994 (putting me in sixth grade), I can recall observing photos of local politician Rudy Clay in our local newspapers. His vintage, mutton chop sideburns and flared-cut apparel made him stand out from everyone else on the page. Years later, I’d have the opportunity to produce photos of Mr. Clay for those very same newspaper pages during his tenure as mayor of Gary, Indiana.
If there’s one thing I can say for sure about Rudy Clay, it’s that I always looked forward to photographing him – and I’m not sure I can say that about too many other dignitaries. Sure, images of politicians and civic leaders are important, but a photo op. with Rudy Clay genuinely excited me. With the aforementioned unique style choices aside, Clay had a certain way with words each time he took the podium at a special event.
More than once, I was left struggling to hold my last ounce of professionalism as I chuckled behind the camera at one of Clay’s many original colloquialisms that he seemed to come up with on the fly. My favorite came at the unveiling of a statue celebrating Gary’s centennial in 2006, where Clay sized things up in a cooly demure tone, “What a magnificent… monumental monument.”
I was disappointed when Mr. Clay’s health began to fail shortly after it was announced that he’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer, a diagnosis which ended his bid for mayoral reelection in 2011. Still, throughout that year, Clay continued his mayoral duties, including attending a program at Banneker Achievement Center on October 10th, 2011 (the final time I’d photograph him). Mr. Clay passed away this morning at the age of 77.
Gary, Indiana, Mayor Rudy Clay (left) toasts supporters at his election headquarters at the Tri-City Commons Shopping Center after winning his bid for mayor in Gary, Tuesday, November 6, 2007.
28 Gary firefighters who were laid off six months ago are sworn in by Gary Mayor Rudy Clay (foreground, right) after being rehired during a ceremony held at the Mayor’s Office in City Hall in Gary, Ind., Wednesday, June 29, 2011. A total of 34 firefighters were rehired.
(From left) Gary, Ind., Mayor Rudy Clay stands with Katherine Jackson, mother of the late pop singer Michael Jackson, and her granddaughter Genevieve Jackson, in front of the former home of the Jackson family at 2300 Jackson St. in Gary, Ind., Friday, June 25, 2010. A ceremony unveiling a monument took place at the home, commemorating the first anniversary of the singer’s death.
Gary, Indiana, Mayor Rudy Clay (left) talks with Gary Mayor-Elect Karen Freeman-Wilson at Banneker Achievement Center during a program celebrating the school’s designation as a 2011 Blue Ribbon School held at the school in the Miller neighborhood of Gary, Ind., Monday, October 10, 2011. Banneker was one of 305 schools in the nation to receive the distinction.
(From left) Former Gary, Ind., mayors Richard Hatcher, Thomas Barnes and Dozier Allen pose with current Gary mayor Rudy Clay at the premiere of the West Side Theatre Guild’s film Steel Waters at West Side Theatre in Gary, Ind., Monday, July 14, 2008.