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Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Nile Kinnick Jr.

Phil Roeder
A statue of Nile Kinnick Jr. watches over the crowd filing into the stadium in Iowa City.

Long-time Iowa City resident and retired teacher Mark D. Wilson never expected to write a book about his hero Nile Kinnick, but when someone mentioned to him that this year is the 100th anniversary of the renowned football player's birth, he felt he had to do it. The result is the newly published The Way of Nile C. Kinnick, Jr: Insights, Images, and Stories of Iowa's 1939 Heisman Trophy Winner

Mark D. Wilson

Much has been written about the famous Hawkeye, but Wilson was able to turn up even more facts and anecdotes about Kinnick's life. It all started at the University of Iowa, Wilson told Charity, when a fraternity brother introduced him to Bill Green Sr., a 1942 U. of Iowa graduate and a teammate of Kinnick on the famous 1939 squad. Green was able to relate many stories of Nile, and told him that he was "a tremendous athlete, a man of conviciton and insight, a prolific writer, and a great public speaker." Kinnick himself told Green that he looked forward to a career in politics after he finished law school.

Wilson says that many people close to Kinnick felt he would go on to become president of the United States.  Wilson said Iowa lucked out when the state's most famous Ironman chose to play for the Hawkeyes, over offers from such powerhouses at the time as Minnesota and Notre Dame. And it was the 1939 team that went on to defeat the Gophers and Irish, on its way to a season to remember. Especially, Wilson says, considering there were five U. of Iowa football seasons between 1930 and 1938 when the Hawkeyes didn't win even one Big Ten game. 

Wilson says Kinnick was a prolific writer and kept extensive diaries. In fact, his book features a quote from Kinnick for every day of the year. The Heisman Trophy winner was even more remarkable than you might of thought, making it even more of a tragedy that he died in a naval training flight during World War II.

Hear Charity Nebbe's conversation with author Kimberly Stuart

Kimberly Stuart

In the third segment, Nebbe talks with author Kimberly Stuart. Stuart lives in Des Moines and has just published her 8th novel, Heart Land.

“This book is a total love letter to the Midwest and to small towns everywhere,” Stuart says. “I love Iowa; my husband and I have chosen to raise our family here. And that Iowa love is integral to my writing, and to this book in particular.”

Heart Land tells the story of an Iowan who left home with a dream to make it big in the New York fashion industry, but when that dream falls flat, she comes back home to rebuild her life.

Dennis Reese was the mid-day host for Iowa Public Radio
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa