Friday, September 30, 2011


McClinton not limited to football


We got around to talking football eventually, but it’s just that when you only have an hour to spend on the phone with a man who has seen so much, learned so passionately and lived so fully as has Curtis McClinton Jr., sports don’t dominate.

Sure, McClinton was an All-American running back at Kansas University in 1961 and had a terrific career for the Kansas City Chiefs. But what makes him special is the insatiable curiosity of his mind and the way he is able to capture in words the brilliance of others.

McClinton received a bachelor’s in education from Kansas, a master’s in business from Central Michigan and a doctorate in philosophy from Miles College in Birmingham, Ala. He gave the valedictorian speech after completing graduate studies at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

His most important lessons, of course, were learned at home. Yet, as much as he always has admired his father, a Wichita real estate broker who his son proudly shares is going strong mentally and physically at 98, he didn’t want to follow him into politics.

“First black senator elected in the state of Kansas,” Curtis Jr. said from his home in Kansas City, Mo, of his father. “I never really fell in love with politics.”

McClinton Jr. was in the federal Senior Executive Service under President Jimmy Carter and President George H.W. Bush and he was deputy mayor in Washington, D.C., but not everybody who serves in or on the periphery of politics is a politician. McClinton greatly admires one such man.

“In all my travels, probably the most mesmerizing personality that I ever met was Colin Powell,” he said.


“It was the way General Powell communicated with words and without words, and it was the way he brought a mission to closure and moved on,” McClinton said. “And to the people around him — including presidents, statesmen and world leaders — he was a true leader. He was a person who you knew when you were in his presence, you were going to leave a more knowledgeable and comfortable person. ... The aura about him was subtle, but his focus on acts and deeds was swift. He was always moving.”

He never moved into the oval office, but if he had, he would have made a “superb” president, in McClinton’s estimation.

“I certainly encouraged him when I had the opportunity to chat with him,” McClinton said. “The one issue that brings about a caution on my behalf, he seemed to be a man of very good judgment, and he chose not to, so I trust him.”

During his days at KU, McClinton’s hero became not a football player, rather fellow bass baritone Paul Robenson, who also used his voice to plead for equality for all Americans. McClinton learned of him from a KU professor and flew to New York to see him in concert at Carnegie Hall during a bye week.

Judy Kish of Lawrence, the daughter of former KU assistant football coach George Bernhardt, remembers fondly McClinton student-teaching at Central Junior High and riveting students with a “beautiful” version of “Old Man River.”

McClinton looks forward to joining ’61 teammates in Lawrence this weekend for a reunion honoring them.


Jeff Coffman 10 years, 9 months ago

Wouldn't be cool if the KU band pumped up the tune of "Old Man River", when they walked out.

These were great Student-Athletes...thanks Keegan, great story.

Funhawk 10 years, 9 months ago

"There he is, Curtis McClinton, number 32, the Rookie of the Year in the American Football League and a former All-American at Kansas.....230 and he can move"

Funhawk 10 years, 9 months ago

To put time in perspective…. Or, “if you really want to feel old,” Curtis McClinton, John Hadl, and crew played the Syracuse “Orange,” as they were called then, October 1, 1960 in Memorial Stadium. No doubt the radio was broadcasting the game into a Syracuse home that included a one year old, a future sports editor for Lawrence.

Funhawk 10 years, 9 months ago

Fun in '61. Transistor radios were small. Instrumentals were big.

Who was born in 1961? A. Turner Gill B. Bill Self C. Chuck Long D. None of the above.

Funhawk 10 years, 9 months ago

Fun in ’61. 50 years ago this date, this record was ready to crack the Top 40 and go all the way to No. 1.

What running back was playing for the KU Frosh team in 1961? (Freshmen could not play on the varsity team) A. Bert Coan B. Gale Sayers C. Dan Devine D. Fred Hageman

Funhawk 10 years, 9 months ago

Fun in ’61. This record was the biggest seller for the entire year of 1961:

“Sport Talk” was the 1961 column in the LJW by what long time journalist? A. Chuck Woodling B. Tom Keegan C. Ed Hentzen D. Bill Mayer

Funhawk 10 years, 9 months ago

Fun in ’61. Jimmy Dean had a No. 1 Hit in December, 1961.

What KU sophomore scored three touchdowns and a two-point conversion (20 points total) in a 33-14 whooping of K-State? A. John Hadl B. Lee Flachsbarth C. Elvin Basham D. Curtis McClinton

danmoore 10 years, 9 months ago

Curtis is before my time. Did not realize what an impressive person he is. Did not even know he played for the Chiefs.

He would have been part of that 1960(?) team that beat mizwho and kept them out of the national title picture. Sweet!

Funhawk 10 years, 9 months ago

Video of the '61 Bluebonnet Bowl with Max narrating. Check it out -

temjay 10 years, 8 months ago

First game I ever saw in Memorial Stadium was KU vs. Syracuse in 1960. Just a kid but remember like it was yesterday.Ernie Davis vs. Hadl and McClinton. What a game. KU lost but played their hearts out. And made a believer out of me.

I've always thought that UCLA and KU (circa early 60s) had the best college football uniforms ever. Must be something about powder blue.

ryanm1988 10 years, 8 months ago

McClinton scored first touchdown in super bowl history

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