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Nile Kinnick Collection

Each fall tens of thousands of people cheer their beloved Iowa Hawkeyes in the football stadium that bears the name of Iowa’s only Heisman trophy winner: Nile Kinnick Jr. Standing only 5’8” tall, Kinnick was a giant among men, a champion athlete and scholar who gave his life for his country serving in World War II.

The Nile Kinnick collection from the University of Iowa Libraries brings together letters, newspaper clippings, and photos of Nile Kinnick to help tell the story of one of the UI’s greatest football legends. The correspondence here includes letters written by Kinnick from 1935 to 1943. These letters from college and from the war, were written primarily to his parents, although some correspondence with friends is included. The diaries you’ll find were kept by Kinnick during the war. Together, these letters and diaries were used for the book, A Hero Perished: the Diary and Selected Letters of Nile Kinnick, which was edited by Paul Baender and published by the University of Iowa Press in 1991. The manuscript of this book is now part of the Kinnick papers. The three scrapbooks in the collection were compiled by Nile Kinnick, Sr., they date from September 1936 to April 1975, and include clippings relating to Nile, Jr. from football games, award speeches, etc.

Also included in the collection is the text of Kinnick’s Heisman trophy acceptance speech. Whitney Martin, a reporter covering the Heisman ceremony for the Associated Press, described the scene as “several hundred men and women rose and cheered and whistled…You realized the ovation wasn’t alone for Nile Kinnick, the outstanding college football player of the year. It was also for Nile Kinnick, typifying everything admirable in American youth.”