Guide to the Nile C. Kinnick Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1935-1991
Creator: Kinnick, Nile C. (1918-1943)
Extent: 6.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0112
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Student leader, scholar, and athlete from Iowa. Correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, speeches, photographs, articles, etc.

Administrative Information

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in Boxes 2, 3, and 3a; Film/Video in Box 4; Audio Material in Boxes 4 and 4a; Ephemera in Box 6.

Access: This collection is open for research. However, any photocopying from this collection must be done by staff members.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Acquisition: The bulk of the papers of Nile C. Kinnick was given to the University of Iowa Libraries by his parents, Mrs. Frances Clarke Kinnick in 1959, and Nile C. Kinnick, Sr. from 1972 to 1977. Professor Baender donated some of his materials from writing his book about Kinnick, A Hero Perished.

Preferred Citation: Nile C. Kinnick Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Biographical Note

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.

Content Description

The papers of Nile C. Kinnick consist of four linear feet of manuscripts arranged chronologically within an alphabetical sequence dating from 1926 to 1991. The subject files include clippings about Kinnick's career, death, scholarship funds, etc.; essays and speeches he wrote or delivered; correspondence; scrapbooks; photographs; and tape recordings. The correspondence includes letters written by Kinnick from 1935 to 1943. These letters from college and from the war, were written primarily to his parents, although some correspondence with friends is included. The diaries were kept by Kinnick during the war. Together, these letters and diaries were used for the book, A Hero Perished: the Diary and Selected Letters of Nile Kinnick, which was edited by Paul Baender and published by the University of Iowa Press in 1991. The manuscript of this book is now part of the Kinnick papers. The three scrapbooks in the collection were compiled by Nile Kinnick, Sr., they date from September 1936 to April 1975, and include clippings relating to Nile, Jr. from football games, award speeches, etc. Photographs include pictures of Kinnick (from childhood, through college, and in the Navy), the "Ironmen" team and coaches, football games, award ceremonies, and friends. Where there is a negative for the photo included in the collection, this is noted by the word "negative" in brackets following the entry. Finally, there are tape recordings of interviews with Kinnick.

Related Materials

Leaving the Home Front by Jay Karr, neighbor who grew up with Nile Kinnick in Adel, Iowa.

Detailed Description of the Collection

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This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Personal Names:
Kinnick, Nile C. (Nile Clarke), 1918-1943

Corporate Names:
Ironmen (Football team)
United States Navy
University of Iowa

World War, 1939-1945

College students
Football players

Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa -- Adel
United States -- Iowa -- Iowa City
United States -- Nebraska -- Omaha

Genre/Form of Materials:
Clippings (Information artifacts)
Personal narratives
Sound recordings

Hero perished