(Dec. 3, 1895-Sept. 1, 1971). Born in Paris, Illinois, Artis moved to Indianapolis as a youth. He attended Butler University and in 1933 earned a degree in social science at the University of Chicago. He went on to earn a master’s degree at Indiana University in 1941.

A woman and a man stand in front of a doorway.
Lionel and Sue Artis, ca. 1960s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Artis was the assistant executive secretary of the Senate Avenue Ymca from 1913 to 1937, leaving only to serve in the Army during World War I. During this time he also edited the journal of Kappa Alpha Psi, a Bloomington-based African American fraternity. Between 1937 and 1969 he was the manager of Lockefield Gardens, the first public housing facility in Indianapolis and also served as manager of the War Housing Project during World War II.

Active as a volunteer, Artis sat on the boards of 23 civic and community organizations at his death. He was the first African American appointed to a policy-making agency for Indianapolis, beginning service in 1944 as a member of the former Indianapolis Board of Health and Hospitals.

Artis also held leadership positions with Flanner House Homes, Alpha Home for the Aged, YMCA, Indianapolis Community Fund, Urban League, Council of Social Agencies, Community Service Council, and the Mayor’s Race Relations Committee. In 1967, he was named “Man of the Year” by local service groups. 

The former Continental Hotel, a low-income housing project serving elderly and handicapped persons, was named for him in 1974. In 2000, the building was converted into luxury apartments and renamed The Continental.

Revised February 2021

Help improve this entry

Contribute information, offer corrections, suggest images.

You can also recommend new entries related to this topic.