A Tribute to Nile Kinnick, Jr.

Pioneer Sketches

A Tribute to Nile Kinnick, Jr.
Our Most Famous Kinnick

This Page is part of The KINNICK Project
Compiled by William L. (Bill) Smith

This page includes sketches I have compiled from my family history research for my own use. I am posting them on the Internet in the interest of sharing this information with interested parties. If you appear to be directly related, based on the information in the the sketches, or have comments to share with me about these sketches, I would be happy to hear from you. I do not do research for others, nor am I particularly interested in speculative relationships or unrelated surname discussions. There are many other worthy sites for these activities. I hope you enjoy reading some of these interesting stories.

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How am I related to Nile Kinnick?

General Information from book: Kinnick: The Man and the Legend

A note from Phi Kappa Psi - Nile Kinnick's fraternity in Iowa City (added 15 Apr 2000)

Walter Camp Football Team of the Century (added 15 Apr 2000)

Nile Kinnick Final Flight Site Located? (Des Moines Register, Jan 2003)

Links to Places named after Nile Kinnick and other related sites.




When you put KINNICK into most Internet Search Engines you get a series of web sites built around places or institutions named after Nile Kinnick, the war hero, football player, Heisman Trophy winner, likely future Governor of Iowa had he not died in World War II, fighting for his country.

If you are a KINNICK or KINNICK descendant, it is presumable that you are related to him. In the next section, I will share a simply way you can make that determination for your self.

In 1975, D. W. Stump and the University of Iowa produced a book called: "Kinnick: The Man and the Legend." My mother (a KINNICK, of course) gave me a copy for Christmas in 1977. In the section below, I have scanned a few pictures and abstracted a few bits of interesting background for your information.

We all know that KINNICK Stadium at the University of Iowa is named after Nile Kinnick, but did you know many other landmarks and institutions are also. The next section lists a few of them. I welcome futher contributions. Also, if you have personal memories of Nile or the mystique around him, and would be willing to share them, I will open a final section below, recording your thoughts. Your comments are also welcomed.

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How am I related to Nile Kinnick?

This is the first question from one-half to one-third of the people who send me notes at The KINNICK project. Most are new to the Internet, but are steeped in Kinnick blood heritage, which almost always includes the name of Nile Kinnick.

The first step in answering the question is to know your own heritage. How far back can you go. Nile actually belongs to one of the smaller lines, clear back to John and Ann KINNICK. If you are in his line, you probably already know it. I will provide it for you, below. The key here is to identify your common ancestor (ancestor couple, actually) with Nile. If you are in the John and Mary KINNICK line, the common ancestor is at least 2 generations further back - we currently believe these two Johns were most likely first cousins (click either link to see some discussion of this issue.) Here is Nile's line, going back:

Nile Clarke KINNICK, Jr. (b. 1918)

Nile Clark KINNICK, Sr. (b. Apr 1893) m. Francis A. CLARKE

William Butler (W.B.) KINNICK (b. 20 Mar 1849) m. Mary Jane (Jennie) STUMP

William KINNICK (b. 20 Mar 1793) m. Sarah CLARK ROSS

John and Ann KINNICK

Next, you need a relationship chart - I call it a "cousin number counter" - putting your line on one axis, top or left, and Nile's line on the other.

Let's say, as is most likely, that John and Ann are your common ancestor couple. Nile is a great-great-grandson of John and Ann, putting him in position #4, along the top of the "cousin counter".

Let's assume you determine that you are a 4th Great-Grandson of John and Ann. That would place you in position #6 down the left side. Go across, come down. You are 3rd cousins, 2 generations removed. Your grandparents would, therefore, be 3rd cousins with Nile, because they would be in the same generation removed from John and Ann as their mutual common ancestor couple.

Good luck in your determination! If you have questions about this - or you find I have made an error, in any way, please send me a note.

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General Information from book: Kinnick: The Man and the Legend

About 1825, William and Sarah Clark Kinnick moved to a log house in Indiana where, on March 20, 1849, the grandfather of Nile, Jr., William Butler Kinnick, was born. William Kinnick's family moved to Iowa in 1854. Two of the three Kinnick boys enlisted in the Union Army and were away from home when their father died, leaving young Will to farm the 400 acres and care for his mother and three sisters.

Young Will, or W.B. as he was called, married Mary Jane "Jennie" Stump on March 3, 1875. The History of Dallas County, published in 1879, listed W.B. Kinnick as an extensive land owner and vice-president of the Adel State Bank.

To Will and Jennie Kinnick was born, among several children, Nile Clark Kinnick, Sr. Nile the first and Nile the second have identical initials; however, Nile, Jr., wasn't exactly a junior. Nile, Sr., received his middle name from his Scottish grandmother, Sarah Clark Kinnick. Nile, Jr., was given his mother's maiden name (Clarke). The name Nile is of Celtic origin (and is found in several Stump family genealogies). It is a variation of the name Neill, which meant "courageous warrior." Nile, Sr., jokingly asserts that he was always sure his mother didn't name him after the river!

Frances Ada Clarke was the daughter of Governor and Mrs. George W. Clarke of Adel, IA. Mrs. Clarke's father was Benjamin Greene, the president of the first railroad to enter Adel, the first postmaster of Adel, mayor of Adel in 1878, a school commissioner, and a member of the county board of supervisors. George Clarke was Governor of the State of Iowa from 1913 to 1917. Nile, Sr., and Frances Clarke were married in the Adel Christian Church where Governor and Mrs. Clarke were members.

Nile, Jr., was born July 9, 1918. He had two brothers, Ben and George. Nile's interscholastic sports competition began to attract notice in junior high. An example was the October 16, 1930 edition of the Register reporting the Adel Junior High School football team defeating teh Stuart team, including these words, "The Kinnick brothers of Adel assisted by Stacy played spectacular ball." In the fall of 1931, Nile, thirteen years old, was mentioned by a Des Moines sports writer as a possible quarterback for the Adel Tigers. After the 1933 season, it was reported that, "Kinnick, who directed the Adel team from the quarterback position, liked the rough going and he played fiercely in every tilt of a hard 12 game schedule. Kinnick was... versatile... and carried the ball brilliantly in the open field. His passing and punting figured prominently in every Adel game."

In 1934, the Kinnick family moved to the Omaha, NE, area, and Nile attended Benson High School. For his one year at Benson High, Nile was the halfback selection on the World-Herald Intercity All-Star team and was also named halfback on the Nebraska All-State team. Nile enrolled at The University of Iowa in 1936.

By the end of the 1939 season, Nile had rewritten the record books at the University of Iowa. In 1939 alone, he set fourteen new marks. On Sunday, November 26, a brief headline read, IOWA'S KINNICK, CANDIDATE FOR HEISMAN TROPHY. He was named to every major All-American team. The presentation of the Heisman Trophy occured on December 6, 1939, at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City.

Nile was also selected as Outstanding Male Athele of 1939, edging slugger Joe DiMaggio, with Joe Louis finishing in third place.

Nile enrolled in Law School in the Fall of 1940. He filled the interlude before law school and coaching at Iowa with involvement in politics, through the Young Republican organization.

With war efforts around the world getting more serious, Nile felt strongly that the United States should get into it. During the summer of 1941, Nile signed up with the Naval Air Corps Reserve at Fairfax Airfield in Kansas City. Classes were so full, he had to wait until December to report. He returned to the university in the fall of 1941 to help coach football, but because of his enlistment he did not attend law school. On December 4, 1941, just three days before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Nile was called to active duty.

Nile himself, for the most part, recorded the story of his Navy experiences in a diary his parents persuaded him to keep. Excerpts are included in the book.

There was no entry for Wednesday, June 2, 1943. Ensign Nile Clarke Kinnick, Jr., U.S.N.R. made an emergency landing on the waters of the Gulf of Paria, between Trinidad and Venezuela, approximately four miles off the starboard bow of the U.S.S. Lexington, in a Navy Grumman F-4.

His parents received the following message: "The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your son, Ensign Nile Clarke Kinnick, U.S. Naval Reserve, was killed in the performance of his duty and in the service of his country. The Department extends to you its sincerest sympathy in your great loss. Body not recovered. If further details are received you will be informed. To prevent possible aid to our enemies please to not divulge the name of his ship or station. (signed) Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs, The Chief of Naval Personnel."



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Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, Iowa City, Iowa

April 10, 2000, I received a nice email note from Phil Brown of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity in Iowa City. He noted that Nile Kinnick was the 580th member of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity at the University of Iowa and one of their most recognized alumni. They have a scholarship named after him. (At their site, click Search in the left hand column, enter Kinnick, Search)

He also montioned that they are looking for any memorabelia of Nile Kinnick. It seems that about six years ago, their house burned and they lost about everything they had of his from his college years. If you would like to contact him, or, donate any memorabelia, he is at: Phil Brown, Phi Kammpa Psi Fraternity, 363 N. Riverside Dr., Iowa City, Iowa 52246; phone (319) 354-8736.

Bill Smith


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Walter Camp Football Team of the Century

The Walter Camp Football Foundation has named Nile Kinnick to the Football Team of the Century as a Cornerback.

See the complete list at: http://www.waltercamp.org/allcentury.html

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Links to Places named after Nile Kinnick and other related sites.

Nile C. Kinnick - 1939 Heisman Memorial Trophy Winner - Official Site


Kinnick School


Kinnick Stadium


An Alternate Heisman Trohpy Site


"May God give me the courage and ability to so
conduct myself in every situation that my country, my family and my friends
will be proud of me. -- Nile Kinnick, in a letter to his parents published
in "A Hero Perished."


Clarke Family History Web Site (Nile's Grandfather Clarke was a Governor of the State of Iowa)

Send your additional recommendations for other web sites

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This page created 25 Feb 1998. Last updated 6 Aug 2003, by William L. (Bill) Smith.