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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As Catholics celebrate a new Pope, a New Albany man is remembering the work of Indiana's first and only Cardinal. Joseph Ritter is considered a civil rights pioneer but as we found out, in his hometown, most don't know much about his legacy.
"Until we got involved there was not even a biography. A lot of people locally had heard something about him but they didn't know about who he was or what he did," says David Hock, Chairman of Cardinal Ritter Birthplace Foundation.
The man who eventually became Cardinal Joseph Ritter was born and raised at a house on the corner of Oak and 13th Streets in downtown New Albany. The house is restored now, but just ten years ago it was in such bad shape the city had it condemned.
Hock is overseeing the project to turn part of Ritter's home into a museum about his life's work.
Ritter attended St. Mary's Church and School in the early 1900's before entering the seminary.
He was ordained in 1917.
"He was named the youngest bishop ever for the Catholic church in the United States," says Hock.
But it's what he did while serving as Archbishop in Indianapolis that led to his status as a civil rights pioneer. Sixteen years before the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, Ritter ordered that Catholic schools in the city be desegregated.
"He said, well, to keep it the way it would be is a sin. He saw it that was something wrong that needed to be right," says Hock.
Family members say Ritter was an advisor to President Harry Truman, who asked for advice about how to desegregate the military and eventually public schools.
Only one small room of Ritter's home will be turned into the official museum. The rest of space is used as office space for a number of nonprofit organizations. Hock believes that's exactly what he would have wanted.
As the Catholic Church turns a new page, we asked what Cardinal Ritter would have thought about the selection of the new Pope?
"I think they would be kindred spirits… there seems to be some dynamics of Pope Francis that reminds you of what Cardinal Ritter might have been like," says Hock.
A humble man, who lived by the code of doing the right thing.
"The city of New Albany should be real proud to have him as a son of the city," says Hock.