Courtesy of Ginger Baird Robbins



Nile Clarke Kinnick, Jr. was born on July 9, 1918 in Adel, Iowa to Frances Clarke and Nile Clark (without an "e") Kinnick, Sr.   He was the oldest of 3 children (Nile, Ben and George - all deceased).   He graduated from Benson High School in Omaha in 1936 and entered the University of Iowa.   He was the grandson of a Governor (George Washington Clarke), selected captain of the All-American football team and holder of the Heisman Trophy for 1939.   He was also voted U.S. Male Athlete of the Year over baseball's Joe DiMaggio.   He never married.
In addition to Nile Kinnick High School in Yokosuka named after him, the following other facilities are thought to have been named in his honor: 1) The Kinnick Stadium in Tokyo in the 40'-'50's [named in 1947 as such only during the "occupation" era -- previously and now called Meji Park]; 2) The Kinnick Stadium at the University of Iowa; 3) The North High Football Field in Omaha; and 4) The Kinnick-Feller City Park in Adel.

Nile Kinnick Stadium:     A huge stadium was built in Meiji Park near the Meiji shrine in Tokyo for the 1940 Olympics. That stadium survived the bombing during WW II, and upon arrival of the "Occupation Forces" in 1946 it was acquired for use by the US Military.   It was named Nile C Kinnick Stadium (presumably by the US Navy), and was used for sporting events not only for the military services, but by Narimasu and Meguro American High Schools as well. I, (Jim Hyatt), for one attended a Football game between the 1st Cav Division and the 11th Airborne Division there in 1947, and participated in the All (American High School) Japan Track Meet held there in 1948.    The stadium can be located on our 1948 map of Tokyo.

After graduating from the University of Iowa he enlisted in the Navy in September 1941, and later after training at Pensacola became a "Fighter Pilot" -- and assigned to the USS Lexington - Fighting Squadron Sixteen.   He died on the morning of 2 June 1943, having crashed into the sea while on a training flight in the Caribbean Sea - off the coast of Venezuela in the Gulf of Paria, near Trinidad.  
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He was only four miles from the carrier Lexington's deck (which was on it's "shakedown" cruise and on it's way toward the Panama Canal from Pensacola, Florida and then to the  Pacific Ocean), when his F4F's engine suddenly froze from lack of oil, causing his stubby plane to crash into the sea.   When the "Lex" arrived at the scene, only a petroleum slick remained.
Nile's brother Ben, was a military pilot also during WW II and died in action.   His brother George died recently of natural causes.   There are no known "direct" survivors of the Kinnick Family.


"In 1939 a football player at the University of Iowa was selected 'Athlete of the Year'.   He had won every award of outstanding play in football that year.   He helped push Iowa to victory in the 1939 Big Ten Conference.   This athletic prowess was only part of the whole man.  Because of his outstanding scholastic achievements he was chosen a member of Phi Beta Kappa.   He also was in the top one percent of his law class.   World War II came along before he could finish his education.   He left school to become a Navy fighter pilot.   This man represents everything our school stands for - tops in scholastics, athletics, and service to our country.  Because we admire him and believe in the ideals which he emulated, the staff of the 1963 Yo-Hi Annual dedicates this years book to NILE C. KINNICK JR."

1978 Yearbook 


"His feet were swift, his hands strong and sure,

his eyes clear and far sighted, his mind quick

like the running of lightning from cloud to earth"

(Wiley Rutledge, US Supreme Court Justice)

Some helpful links with insight in the life of Nile C. Kinnick:

A Hero Perished: The Diary and Selected Letters of Nile Kinnick (University of Iowa Press, 1991) - #1
A Hero Perished: The Diary and Selected Letters of Nile Kinnick (University of Iowa Press, 1991) - #2
Nile Kinnick's Football Statistics
IRONMAN: The Nile Kinnick Story (Iowa History Journal)
A Collection of Letters, Correspondence and Photos
Iowa's Nile Kinnick (1944) Video

Special thanks and our gratitude to Ms. Jennifer Bradshaw, Student Specialist at the University of Iowa Libraries (Main Library) - May 2015 for her assistance and providing the above links.

We wish to acknowledge the great assistance rendered Mr. Bob Stacy - a former University of Iowa friend of Nile Kinnick's back in the 1930's - and his daughter Julia Stacy - Bedford, Iowa, July 1998 - for providing valuable information about Nile - especially the book named after him - "A Hero Perished" (see "Table of Contents").    The Stacy's are cousins of the Kinnick's.

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