It’s uncertain if the paths of Vivian Carter and John Maniotes ever crossed. It wouldn’t have been impossible for Maniotes to have at least heard of Carter, who was a pioneer in rhythm and blues radio in the 1950s in Gary.
One thing is for sure: Both will forever be entwined. Carter and Maniotes are the latest inductees into the South Shore Wall of Legends, a who’s who among trailblazing Lake County residents.
Henry Farag remembers the first time he heard Carter’s voice on his crystal radio, a Christmas present he received as a boy, on WWCA in Gary. “At night, I heard this booming, affable female voice introducing a song called ‘Oh What A Night’ by the Dells,” Farag said at the recent induction ceremony, with more than 100 people in attendance.
“I used to love listening to Vivian because she made no bones about what she liked. And if it sold at her record store, she didn’t mind promoting it and I didn’t mind listening,” said Farag, who would go on to be a singer and performer for Stormy Weather, a legendary Northwest Indiana a cappella doo-wop quintet.
In 1953, Carter and her husband, James Bracken, took a step beyond just selling vinyl records from their store. The couple started their own record label, Vee-Jay Records, considered to be the first major African-American record label in the United States, several years before Motown got under way in Detroit.
Carter, a Gary Roosevelt High School graduate, founded the company as a way to develop new musical talent. But Carter just didn’t record or promote black artists. Vee-Jay’s biggest claim to fame was introducing the Beatles to America with the release of “Please, Please Me,” on the Vee-Jay label in 1963.
“She loved music. It was in her soul,” Farag said.
Carter would eventually move her recording company to Chicago. She died in 1989 at the age of 68 in a Gary nursing home.
Dr. John Maniotes, meanwhile, was a computer pioneer. Maniotes, professor emeritus of Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, developed one of the earliest computer technology curricula in the nation.
He founded and was the first department head of the Computer Information Technology and Graphics Department at Purdue Calumet, making it the first university in the Calumet Region to offer computers as a field of study.
“John was in that special group of people who began at the inception of computer science,” said Howard Cohen, chancellor at Purdue University Calumet. Joining the PUC faculty in 1963, Maniotes taught for 38 years.
Born and raised in East Chicago, Maniotes graduated in 1953 from East Chicago Washington High School and earned his doctorate, master’s and bachelor’s degrees in engineering from Purdue University. He co-authored 15 textbooks, two laboratory manuals and more than 30 journal articles on computer-related subjects. He also developed a 1972 slide rule patent prior to the introduction of the pocket calculator.
In April 2001, Maniotes retired from Purdue Calumet, and was awarded the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award later that year. His legacy includes the Sam & John Maniotes Memorial Scholarship, which has helped more than 120 computer students.
Maniotes died in 2009 at the age of 74. “John leaves a huge legacy of being one of the pioneers of computer science,” Cohen said. “I’m very proud that he spent his academic career at Purdue University Calumet.”
The Wall of Legends is sponsored by BP Whiting Business Unit. Seventeen legends now grace the Wall at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond.
The Wall is the inspiration of John Davies, president of the Woodlands Communications Group of Valparaiso, and Stephen G. McShane, archivist/curator, Calumet Regional Archives, Indiana University Northwest.