“But It Was Too Late for Me”

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Despite a long history in Harvey County, stories from the Black community have often been ignored. In recent years, efforts have been made to tell some of these stories – stories that  often reveal painful events. The experiences of Black athletes at Newton High School in the late 1940s through the 1950s highlight the difficulties, pain and perseverance of several young men.

The Truth About the Late 40s

In 1997, the Committee planning the 50th reunion for the NHS class of 1948 attempted allow room for Black NHS graduates to share their experiences.  Editor of the 50th reunion book, Norma Werner Wilson, posed this question:

We need to know the truth about the late 40s . . .Do you remember any incidents that clearly showed bigotry or racial callousness?”

The answers published in Our Journey: 50th Reunion Book NHS 1948-1998,” illustrated a community divided along painful racial lines with white student often unaware of the experiences of Black students. Some of the hardest stories revolved around the NHS basketball team and Coach Frank Lindley.

While Lindley was coach at Newton High, 1914-1945, the men’s team was wildly successful with several state championships and undefeated seasons. As coach of the high school basketball team, Lindley was insistent that only white students play on the team.  After he retired from coaching, Lindley continued as NHS  principal 1923-1951.

The 1945 Railroader illustrates the long standing division  with one small photo for the  “Colored Team,” and several photos for the “NHS Railroader Basketball team.”

Page from the Newton High School Railroader, 1945.

What was the experience of the Black athlete in the late 1940s? The stories returned to the reunion committee reveal deep wounds.

“But, it was too late for me”

Clifford Rickman, 1948 graduate from NHS,  shared his experiences and thoughts from the late 1940s.

“Unfortunately my memories of Newton High are not the same as yours.  My memories are of the way African Americans were treated.  The school board still has a building named after Coach Lindley, the biggest bigot . . . You were students just like me, but I thought maybe someone would wonder why some of us don’t come (to reunions) even after all these years.

Clifford Rickman, 1947.

Rickman asked  hard questions.

“Did you ever ask when you went to the movies why all the Blacks sat in one place behind a chrome fence? Did you ever ask why Blacks could not ever swim in the city pool? Did you ever ask why Blacks did not skate at the public skating rink?”


He recalled his experiences on the separate basketball team.

“We had a separate Black basketball team. We had to play other Black teams that were in the same boat we were in.  I remember traveling to towns like Chanute, Salina, Hutchinson . . . Sure they gave us high school letters but only because they used Blacks to play football and run track. Newton never changed until Lindley left. I understand when Ravenscroft took over, things changed —but too late for me.”

“Since I couldn’t play basketball on the White team, . . . I would not play football on the White team”

Another response came from Clayton Garnett, who also graduated in 1948.

“I must tell you that what Clifford Rickman wrote was true.  Mr. Lindley, who was coach before Mr. Ravenscroft,  . .  would not let Blacks or Mexicans play on the all White basketball team.” 

“Mr. Lindley, as principal, agreed to let us form our own team made up of all Black guys and let us play our games in the junior high gym.  He also let us use the old outdated basketball uniforms of the White team. “

They were not allowed to play in the high school gym (Lindley Hall), except by special exemption.

“Our coach was Jack Smith and he got permission to play one game in Lindley Hall because we were playing Tulsa and we knew the junior high gym would not accommodate the number of spectators.”

Other sports at NHS did not have these restrictions. Garnett recalled a conversation with the football coach.

“I was asked by the football coach to come out to play on the football team because he saw how fast I was in the 100 yard dash during the Jr/Sr track meet.  But since I couldn’t play basketball on the White team, I told him I would not play football on the White team for him.

He stated that the policy would change as soon as Lindley retired.  Sure enough, as soon as Mr. Lindley retired as principal, Mr. Ravenscroft said that anyone could play on the then exclusively White team. My brother, Floyd (Skip) Garnett did just that in 1958.”

Floyd “Skippy” Garnett

He also recalled restrictions at public places, like the movie theater and swimming pool.

“We also could not swim in the municipal swimming pool at Athletic Park.  We only had one night every two weeks to skate at the skating rink.  We had to sit in the back of the movie theaters.” 

“With Bitter Clarity”

Norris D. Garnett, a Black student from the class of 1949 shared:

“What sticks in my memory with bitter clarity is the racial discrimination and racial prejudice we non-White students had to bear. First there was the matter of the all-White Newton High School basketball team.

We were all great friends in the classrooms and gym, but as soon as school let out, it was as if we didn’t know each other.”

“I sure didn’t know”

In contrast, the response from the white former students reveals an unawareness of what the Black students experienced.

“The thing that  had the greatest impact on me . .. . was the honor assembly  our senior year.  This was when Mr. Lindley introduced the Black basketball team.  I did not know we had such a thing. The  main feeling I had was embarrassment. I’m not sure it was for the boys for being put on exhibit or for the explanation by Mr. Lindley as to why we had the team . . .” – Lee Schroeder

“I never knew we had a separate Black basketball team. I remember being shocked to discover the ‘Mexican’ girls were not allowed to take showers after gym class.” -Jean Maberry Wendt

“I sure didn’t know that these guys were not allowed on the team.” Jennie Anderson Beneke

After Frank Lindley retired, things did change at Newton High School.  Community change was also slow.  In a newspaper article  for the 125th Anniversary of the Kansan, Judy Burks concluded;  “Integration laws came.  Minority students began to play on Railer basketball teams in new uniforms in stead of the discarded uniforms of white players.” Sadly, it was too late for gifted athletes like Clifford Rickman, Clayton Garnett and Norris D. Garnett.

For Additional Stories:




  • Willson, Norma Werner, ed Our Journey: NHS 1948-1998. 50th Reunion Committee, 1999.  HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks.
  • Newton High Class of 1949, Along the Golden Trail: 50th Anniversary Book of Memories.  HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks.
  • Burks, Judy.  “On Equal Ground: Stories of Newton’s Black Settlers.” 125th Anniversary Ed of the Kansan, 1997.


The Best Playing Court in Kansas: Lindley Hall

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

On Sunday, October 15, HCHM will host Jordan Poland, Director of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. He will present Athletic Cathedrals of Kansas. Poland will explore some of the more memorable venues in Kansas,  building them and their role in the community. Newton has it’s own sports cathedral in Lindley Hall.

Built in 1934, Lindley Hall was home to some of Newton High’s most successful basketball teams under the leadership of Frank Lindley and later John Ravenscroft. The new building could seat from 2,200 to 3,000 people for basketball games.  When used as an auditorium it could seat 1,250 on the main floor and 1,600 in the balconies.

The problem of what to name the new structure was easily solved.

“Acting upon scores of requests from students and townspeople, the board of education . . . formally adopted [Lindley Hall] . . . as a tribute to Frank Lindley in recognition of his long years of service to Newton high school as athletic coach and principal.”

The building measured 122 feet wide by 143 feet long and 44 feet in “extreme height.”  The building materials used included 430,000 bricks, 65 tons of steel and 5,000 sacks of cement.

“The best lighted gymnasium and playing court in the state of Kansas”

Over the court, the wide span of the beams, 121 feet, allowed a roof with no pillars anywhere in the building. A new type of goal was also installed. The goal was designed so that it could be drawn up to the ceiling when not needed during games, giving versatility to the space. With 54 recessed ceiling lights, each with a potential 500 watts, Lindley Hall was “the best lighted gymnasium and playing court in the state of Kansas.”

Interior Lindley Hall, 1934.

In addition to the basketball court, there was a stage, with storage underneath, and two dressing rooms.

Basketball practice in the new facility started November 27, 1934.

A program of dedication for the new $80,000 gymnasium-auditorium was held December 14, 1934.

Frank Lindley was the Newton High School men’s basketball coach from 1914-45.  He was one of the first to use the zone defense. Lindley finished his coaching career with a record of 594-118, 8 state titles and 8 state runner-up.  He also served as Newton High School principal from 1921-1951.


  • Evening Kansan Republican, 28 November 1934,
  • Program: The Dedication of Lindley Hall, Newton Public Schools, December 14, 1934. HCHM Archives.

Purple & Gold and the Lead We’ll Hold!

“Purple & Gold,
Purple & Gold,
We’re in the Lead,
and the Lead We’ll Hold”

*NHS Cheer from 1914

NHS Football Letter, unknown date, HCHM School Collection, HCHM, Newton, Ks

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator 

Recently the question was asked: ‘Have the Newton High School colors always been black and gold?’

The first NHS Annual that is available at HCHM is The Mirror from 1904 and although class colors are mentioned, school colors are not.

The Mirror, Newton High School Annual, 1904. HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks

Newton High School, 1904, The Mirror, NHS Annual, HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks

Purple & Gold

“Put on your purple bonnet,
With Newton High School on it,
And we’ll all get ready for the fray.
Can’t you see us Grinning
Don’t you know we’re winning
On the great Foot Ball Day.”

The first time school colors are mention is in the 1914 Newtone. A new High School was completed in 1914 with “one of the best gymnasiums and basket-ball courts in Kansas.” This is also the year that Frank Lindley was hired as all around coach for NHS.

The Newtone, Newton High Annual, 1914. HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks.

Postcard of the new Newton High School, 1914.

The page of “Yells and Songs” clearly mention purple and gold.

Page of Cheers in The Newtone, NHS Annual, 1914, HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks

NHS Letter, unknown date, HCHM School Collection, HCHM, Newton, Ks

1932 Basketball

Unknown date, HCHM School Collection, HCHM, Newton, Ks

1935 Basketball

Purple and gold wool sweater worn by Lucile Mitchell Miller on game days.

Lucile Mitchell Miller, 1920.

The colors for Newton High School remained purple and gold until 1945.

Navy Blue & Gold

John Ravenscroft returned to Newton High after receiving an honorable discharge on May 8, 1945 to coach basketball. He later recalled how the school colors were changed from purple and gold to dark navy blue and gold.

“I told Mr. Lindley that the school needed a set of 15 new basketball uniforms and warm-ups since none had been purchased throughout the war.  Mr. Lindley and I both knew that the school was having serious trouble with the old purple and gold uniforms because the purple had faded to different shades in the same set.”

The two men discussed this issue with the supplier Campbell Sporting Goods, but the supplier could not “guarantee that  sets of uniforms made of different orders of material from their suppliers would be the same shade of purple.”

Lindley and Ravenscroft agreed on dark navy blue and gold for the new uniforms for the 1945-1946 school year.

NHS Warm Up, HCHM Sports Collection.

Ravenscroft met with  student body officers to show the color swatches.  The students agreed with the dark blue and gold colors and new uniforms and warm-ups were ordered.

The student body met in September 1945 to confirm the color change. When viewing the color swatches again, a mistake was made and the students thought the color was black.  So the colors voted on September 1945 were black and gold.

Ravenscroft explained:

 “I was not involved in the confirmation and did not know of the error until after the 1945 State Championship in March 1946. Mr Lindley said, ‘Forget it.  Plain dull black is horrible, but if they can’t tell the difference, they won’t know the difference.'”

Throughout Ravenscroft’s tenure at NHS, the uniforms were always navy blue and gold.

Black & Gold

After Ravenscroft left in 1958, the new athletic director, Curtis Fischer, ordered new uniforms with the colors black and gold, not realizing the earlier mistake. He was “horrified when he saw the new uniforms in plain black instead of colorful, shiny, light reflecting dark navy blue.”

The supplier would not take the uniforms back so the school lived with “dull, light-absorbing black ever since.”

Susan Griffith Agel  Letter 1972.

1st NHS Girls Basketball Team, 1972, Women’s Sports In Harvey County


  • “From Purple to Black: by John Ravenscroft in Buller, Curtis.  Can’t You Hear the Whistle Blowing?  Hesston, Ks:  Prestige Printing, 1997, HCHM Archives, HCHM, 200 N. Poplar, Newton, Ks. p. 94.
  • NHS Yearbook Collection, HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks, 1904-1940s.
    • The Mirror, 1904.
    • Newtone, 1914.

Past Posts about NHS Basketball