“One-hundred years ago this was the most famous organization and yet there are no books written about them,” said McGowan. “That’d be like nobody knowing the Yankees 100 years from now.”
Despite the name of the club, all members were welcomed whether or not they were Irish. McGowan pointed out that IAAC’s members included the first African-American and first Jewish person to win gold medals for the U.S.
“In an era of segregation and discrimination, they were a multicultural, ethnically diverse organization, which is what Queens has become today,” he said. “They were just looking for talent; what mattered was how fast you could run or how far you could throw.”
In 2008, he founded the Winged Fist Organization (the name is a reference to IAAC’s logo), a non-profit historical group dedicated to preserving IAAC’s legacy. Over the last several years, the group has fought a losing battle involving Celtic Park, a development of apartments McGowan is a resident of.
After extensive research, he discovered the complex was indeed named after the Celtic Park stadium, home to the IAAC for nearly three decades. The complex was built atop the site of the stadium. With the support of local elected officials, Winged Fist Organization approached the Celtic Park co-op board about putting a plaque on the management building because it is the only building with an awning bearing the words “Celtic Park,” but the request was denied.
Nevertheless, Winged Fist Organization remains unfazed in its attempts to install a plaque marking the site of the original Celtic Park stadium’s grand stand.
“We as a group have researched the history of this organization and what we’ve uncovered is a wealth of historical information that’s been overlooked,” said McGowan. “We hope to make this information better known to Queens.”
For more information about the IACC or Winged Fist Organization, visit their website.