The Redbud City: OBU quits football as county officials take office

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
Big Ed Thompson, 225-pound OBU tackle, got into condition by lifting two of his teammates on the championship Bison football team. On the left was Darwin Richardson, right was quarterback Johnny Denton. OBU Trustees voted in December of 1940 to drop the sport.


OBU football, which just began to show its full strength during the fall during its 22nd year, was abolished Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 10, 1940, by 13 members of the university board of trustees, who out-voted seven staunch grid devotees.

“The principal reason for the action was a $9,000 cash and a $7,700 scholarship loss on the football program during the 1940 season,” Dr. John W. Raley, OBU president, said. “The 1940 cash loss was almost $1,000 greater than the cash loss in 1939.”

“It was a most genteel meeting,” described one member who declined to be quoted by name. “Each man had his own opinion, but there was no bitterness of rancor.”

Seven of the 27 trustees attending the semi-annual meeting, left before the standing 13-7 vote closed the six-hour session. The absentees were reported against another year of football. Their absence was believed to have had little effect on the outcome. Full membership of the board included 32 men.

Although not committing himself, Trustee J. Lloyd Ford of Shawnee said before the group convened that the Bison’s 1940 Collegiate Conference championship provided an ideal time to abolish the sport, if such action was taken.

“If there ever was a time to quit, it’s now,” Ford said. “Because if we went ahead and did keep football another year and then dropped it, there would be ‘sour grapes’ talk.”

Since the appointment of a committee several weeks earlier to study the school’s athletic problem, with expected stress on the gridiron angles, OBU students were expecting “football’s funeral.”

War whoops by members of the championship team that were heard from the men’s dormitory at the north end of the campus to the business district south of the school grounds, sounded closely on the heels of the board’s announcement. There were rumors that the gridsters planned to leave the campus, gathered weight like rolling snowballs, but centered in the future actions of Coach W.W. Nicklaus.

Nicklaus, whose OBU teams during the past two years ranked with the best in the state, was invited to take a post as professor of physical education in an expanded intramural program. The coach, however, was expected to accept a coaching job elsewhere. Most frequently rumored spot for Nicklaus was at Arizona State College in Tempe, Arizona.

There was also news on the campus of an ROTC inspector to review the university’s application for a unit. It reached the trustees in the closing minutes of their deliberations.

District Judge J. Knox Byrum inquired why football alone was singled out as objectionable because of financial losses. He pointed to basketball and said, “had financial losses ever since I’ve been watching OBU teams.”

A petition of 286 of the 628 students enrolled in the college was presented, asking the trustees to retain the game. Some of the trustees said that the signatures of less than half of the student body indicated that support for football was not as widespread as many believed among the collegians themselves.

Dr. Raley declared in a final speech to the board that the activity would be resumed if the trend toward doing away with intercollegiate football was reversed.

“If today’s solution does not work,” he said, “we shall admit our error and resume football. This administration will do its utmost to prove the worth of an institution that has redefined its objectives in a rapidly changing world. We shall spend this $16,000 a year to encourage the intellectual, the artistic, the musical, and the cultural. A good part of this amount will be spent on the library, which is inadequate for present needs.

“We shall build an institution that will profit by our foresight in recognizing a trend and pioneering in real educational advancement.”


Two major offices in the Pottawatomie County courthouse changed hands on Monday, Jan. 6, 1941. The new forces were headed by Sheriff D.O. Barton and County Attorney Claude Hendon, who moved in with their staffs.

Barton, veteran county peace officer, serving his first term as sheriff, succeeded C.C. Hawk, Republican incumbent. Barton completed his staff the previous Saturday by naming two jailers: Aubrey Barton of Tecumseh, and Lee Chancellor; two deputies: Tandy Moore of McLoud and Luther Lofties of Shawnee. Opal Boyd of Shawnee would supervise the county jail kitchen.

Earlier, Barton selected Shelton “Duke” Skinner, a Shawnee attorney, as undersheriff. Willis Moore would be the jailer, W.A. Deister, civil deputy, and Lottie Alston to serve as matron.

Hendon succeeded Tom Wyatt, who moved on to be a member of the state legislature. Hendon announced his selection of M.L. Hankins and Byron Lamun as his assistants. Enid McMullin was selected as the new secretary to the county attorney.

In the state political picture, State Senator Mead Norton and Legislator John Levergood participated in the legislature for the first time. Terms of County Judge Tom Stevens, County Superintendent Arguyle Seikel, County Treasurer Stanley Grimes, and three county commissioners did not begin on that Monday. Stevens’ term would start on the second Monday of the month. The others were set to begin new terms the first Monday in July.

Veterans who started their fifth terms were County Assessor Ben Hunter and County Clerk Robert E. Easley. Out-going officials of the county attorney’s office planned to continue careers in law. Wyatt planned to practice with a law firm in the city.

These stories all appear in Volume Two (1930-49) in the six-volume history of the City of Shawnee. The first four volumes, through 1989, are now available for purchase at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society. They are now open, and you may visit them, or you may order them online at their website, or by calling (405) 275-8412. Each volume is $35, but a purchase of two or more volumes can be obtained at $30 each. We are offering a special deal. If you purchase any other volume, you may obtain Volume One (1830-1929) for just $20. Volume five, (1990-2009) is coming in May or June. Volume six, (2010-2021) should follow quickly in the fall.