Indiana Landmarks has named former Indiana First Lady Judy O’Bannon the recipient of its 2020 Williamson Prize for outstanding leadership in historic preservation. She helped launch the Indiana Main Street program, played an instrumental role in saving individual meaningful structures, engaged countless Hoosiers in preservation efforts and produced an award-winning TV series demonstrating the impact preservation can have on communities.

O’Bannon was introduced to preservation when she and husband Frank moved to Corydon in 1957 and fixed up their third-floor apartment in the nineteenth-century building that housed The Corydon Democrat, a newspaper owned by the O’Bannon family for 108 years. 

She continued to show her passion for preservation after her husband was elected Indiana’s lieutenant governor in 1989, when the O’Bannons purchased and continued renovation of a late Victorian house in Indianapolis’s Old Northside neighborhood. Attending services at the Central Avenue United Methodist Church just blocks away from their home, Mrs. O’Bannon stepped up when the dwindling congregation struggled to maintain its house of worship and led the charge that spawned the Old Centrum, a hub for nonprofit agencies that was housed there for many years. She helped save the building again in 2008, supporting Indiana Landmarks’ plan to restore the church as its headquarters and helping engage Bill and Gayle Cook of Bloomington in efforts to restore the structure.

Judy O’Bannon has also served as a media force for historic preservation, participating in three notable programs for Indianapolis PBS station WFYI: the documentary Transformation, which chronicled the Old Centrum’s conversion to the Indiana Landmarks Center; the Emmy award-winning series Community Building Communities; and Second Chances: What Can Happen When a Barn.


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