Kinnick, Nile C.
- Existence: 1918-1943
The oldest of Frances Clarke and Nile Clark Kinnick's three boys, Nile Clarke Kinnick, Jr. was born in Adel, Iowa, on July 9, 1918. The Kinnick boys were all raised to be achievers, and were expected to do their best at whatever they attempted. Their father was a farm manager in Adel, and their maternal grandfather, George W. Clarke, was once governor of Iowa. With the depression came hard times, and the Kinnick family was forced to move to Omaha, Nebraska. It was from Omaha that Nile, Jr. graduated from high school with straight As. However, Kinnick was not only a gifted student, he excelled in sports leading his teams to many a state championship. Nile Kinnick's college career at the University of Iowa was remarkable. As a freshman he was on the baseball, basketball, and football teams. In his sophomore year he dropped baseball and by the time he was a junior, football was his only sport. Nile Kinnick was the backbone of Iowa's victorious Ironmen 1939 football squad. When he was a senior he won all of the major football awards, including the Hiesman trophy and the Maxwell award. In 1939, he was named Athlete of the Year by national sportswriters. Notwithstanding his gridiron successes, Nile Kinnick was much more than a great athlete. He was also a student scholar and leader. He was elected senior class president for the College of Liberal Arts. A Phi Beta Kappa, he graduated in 1940, with a BA in Commerce. Then, refusing draft offers from the National Football League, he entered law school aiming at a career in politics, like his grandfather. A young Republican, Kinnick spent time campaigning for Wendell Willkie. After a year in law school (standing third in his class), Kinnick enlisted in the Navy Air Corps Reserve. He was called to active duty three days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Nile Clarke Kinnick, Jr. died on June 2, 1943, after his plane developed mechanical difficulties and was ditched in the Gulf of Paria. Neither the plane nor his body was ever recovered. Nile Kinnick was twenty-four years old. The Iowa City Gazette reported on January 29, 2003, that Kinnick's F4-F Wildcat plane had been located -- but not salvaged -- five miles off the coast of Venezuela by the brother of a Kinnick teammate.