Dr. George C. Watkins at 402 California Street
George Watkins was a chiropractor and respected philanthropist on the West Side of Indianapolis. He owned his home at 402 California Street for 46 years, where he ran his practice with the help of his wife, Marjorie Cook. He often provided his services to members of his neighborhood free of charge as a way of giving back to the community that he cared about so deeply.
George Chester Watkins was born in Brazil, Indiana in 1895. He was one of 20 children born to his mother Mary and father Richard. Richard died in 1901 and only eight of the 20 Watkins’ children were alive by the year 1910. George Watkins’ two oldest brothers worked in the local coal mine as their father had, and his mother and older sister were laundresses. When George graduated from high school, he attended University in Washington, DC. Following his graduation, he moved back to Indiana to the African-American neighborhood on the near-west side of Indianapolis.
Once back in Indiana, Watkins quickly got to work setting up his own private chiropractic practice in the residence next door to his home. During his down time, Watkins was a man who loved to keep busy, a fact shown by the large array of organizations and clubs to which he dedicated himself. He was involved in everything from athletic clubs to the freemasonry. One organization that he was specifically passionate about, however, was the YMCA. As a member of the YMCA board of directors, one of his biggest accomplishments within the YMCA was helping to transition from the Senate avenue to the Fall Creek Parkway locations. He also served as an Indianapolis delegate to Paris in 1955 for the 100th anniversary of George Williams, the founder of the YMCA.
In 1969, Dr Watkins and his wife Marjorie were forced to move from their home of 46 years due to the development and expansion of the IUPUI campus, a devastating loss to the then 72 year old man and his 69 year old wife. It was reported that after the move Dr. Watkins was despondent for several years and according to his wife the move was something he never got over. Many times, Watkins was said to be found by his neighbors wandering around his neighborhood in desperate search for his old California street home. Then in November of 1977, Watkins went missing on one of these pursuits.
For five long months of desperate searching from everyone in the Missing Persons Department, Watkins was nowhere to be found. Until finally in April of 1978 at 9:15 am, police received a call about a body found snagged by a tree limb at the water’s edge of Fall Creek. Although it had been 5 months since Watkins went missing, he was found just 5 blocks from his home.
402 California Street Today
Today, in place of George Watkins' home is a parking lot on IUPUI's campus.
Written by Alyssa Meyer
Edited by Hannah Ryker, May 28, 2020