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Papers of John B. McLendon

Call Number: RH MS E198


John B. McLendon, Jr. was a record-setting African American basketball coach, who pioneered the racial integration and strategic development of the game. McLendon's papers chronicle his outstanding coaching career in amateur and professional athletics.


  • Creation: 1954 - 1996


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of John McLendon

John B. McLendon, Jr. was born April 5, 1915 at Hiawatha, Kansas. He graduated from Sumner High School in Kansas City, Kansas in 1932. After a year at Kansas City Junior College, he transferred to the University of Kansas at Lawrence, where his passion for coaching was fueled by his advisor and inventor of basketball James Naismith. Although KU's color line prevented McLendon from playing on the varsity team, he acquired knowledge and skills under Dr. Naismith's tutelage. He completed his practicum as a coach at Lawrence Memorial High School.

McLendon received a B.S. from the University of Kansas in 1936-KU's first African American student to obtain a degree in physical education. After earning an M.A. in physical education from the University of Iowa in 1937, he accepted his first college position as assistant basketball coach at North Carolina College (later North Carolina Central University). As its head coach from 1940-1952, McLendon led his team to victory in eight Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) tournaments, winning four consecutive CIAA tournaments (1949-1952). Among the players he coached at North Carolina was Harold Hunter, the first African American athlete to sign with the National Basketball Association (NBA).

From 1952 to 1954, McLendon coached at Hampton Institute (Hampton, Virginia), where he took the team to its best record in 26 years. In 1954 he joined the coaching staff of Tennessee A&I State University in Nashville. During his 1954 to 1959 tenure there, the Tennessee Tigers, led by Dick Barnett, broke new ground for African American athletes and set unprecedented college basketball records. The year 1954 marked the first time a black college was invited to play in a tournament of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)- the Tip-Off Tournament held in Kansas City, Missouri. Newspapers of the day reported that it was also the first time that Negros were allowed to stay in the downtown Kansas City hotels. When the Tigers took the 1954 title, McLendon became the first African American coach to win an integrated national championship. His team went on to win the tournament in 1957, 1958 and 1959, making him the first coach in history to win three consecutive NAIA championships.

In 1959, McLendon was the first African American coach selected to lead the National All-Star Team, which defeated the championship team of the professional National Industrial Basketball League (NIBL) in March of that year. He also coached the NAIA All-Stars in international play from 1961 to1964 and 1967.

McLendon left Tennessee in 1959 to become head coach of the NIBL's Cleveland Pipers. In 1960, he was the first coach to defeat the U.S. Olympic Team with an amateur team. In 1961, he was the first African American coach to win the national championship of the Amateur Athletic Union. When the Pipers joined the American Basketball League (ABL), McLendon became the first African American head coach of a professional team and led the Pipers to victory in the Eastern Division in 1962.

After four years with the Pipers, McLendon returned to college basketball in 1963 as head coach at Kentucky State. In 1966, he went to Cleveland State, becoming the first African American head coach of a predominately white university, and, in 1969, led the basketball team to their best record in the school's history. In 1964, McLendon became the first African American coach appointed to the U.S. Olympic Committee. Beginning in 1966, he served as a scout for the Olympic and Pan-American Games and, in 1968, he coached the USA's Olympic team.

In 1969, McLendon was hired by the Denver Rockets and became the first African American head coach in the American Basketball Association. After a brief stint with the Rockets, McLendon ended his 25-year professional coaching career with a winning percentage of .7600 and a lifetime career average of 523 victories and 165 losses. He coached the USA's Olympic team in 1972 and remained a scout for the Olympic and Pan American Games to 1976. During the 1980s, McLendon was an international promotional representative for Converse Rubber and conducted basketball clinics around the globe. He was an innovator in many facets of the game, including the fast break, zone press, and four corners offense. He authored two books: Fast Break Basketball: Fine Points and Fundamentals and The Fast Break Game.

McLendon's professional honors include 1948 CIAA Coach of the Year, 1946-55 CIAA Coach of the Decade, 1955 CIAA Coaches Award, 1958 NAIA Coach of the Year and NAIA Hall of Fame, 1962 Helms Hall of Fame Award, 1977 Metropolitan Award from the New York Basketball Writers Association, 1977 Distinguished American Award by the North Carolina Central University Alumni Association and a 1976 special award for the development of international basketball. In 1978 he was inducted into the CIAA Hall of Fame, and in 1979, he was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame along with Wilt Chamberlain. The first African American college coach to be so honored, McLendon was cited as "the acknowledged leader of the emergence of Black colleges into the varied national programs." In that same year he was elected to the National Sports Hall of Fame and the Black Hall of Fame as well. In 1992 Cleveland State named its new basketball arena in McLendon's honor, and Sports View Magazine selected him "Coach of the Century."

McLendon received doctoral degrees in humane letters from North Carolina Central University (1977) and Jarvis Christian College (1978). He died October 8, 1999, survived by his second wife, Joanna, a daughter and two stepchildren. A son, John B. McLendon III, preceded him in death.


1.25 Linear Feet (4 boxes + 1 oversize box, 13 volumes)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The papers of John B. McLendon, Jr. date from 1954 to 1996, and are arranged in four series: Scrapbooks, Publications, Personal Papers and Awards. The collection contents pertain to McLendon's professional career as a basketball coach, and consist primarily of scrapbooks covering his coaching career with the Tennessee State A&I University Tigers and the Cleveland Pipers. The scrapbooks have handwritten titles and dates, are arranged chronologically, and contain newspaper clippings of sports stories and columns, photographs, press releases, team rosters and schedules, tournament programs, souvenir publications, telegraphs, cards and letters. Each book is housed individually at RH MS E198. Loose items from each scrapbook are housed in folders identifying the scrapbooks from which respective items were removed.

Subject contents of the collection's other series are alphabetical with chronological subarrangement of items within folders. The series titled Publications consists of two articles and a book written by McLendon. The collection's Personal Papers includes biographical material, incoming correspondence, photocopies of newspaper clippings, souvenir publications, and typescripts, all related to McLendon's professional career. The Awards series contains two plaques as well as copies of McLendon's many certificates and citations.

Photographs in the John B. McLendon Collection consist mainly of loose photographs from the scrapbooks. They are housed in folders whose titles correspond to the scrapbook from which the photographs were removed. High quality press photos and informal snapshots feature McClendon and various members of the teams he coached both on and off the court. The photographs are located at RH MS-P 586.

Oversized items are mostly photocopies of McLendon's citations and certificates, and are located at RH MS Q105.

Series List

The John B. McLendon Papers date from 1954 to 1996, and are arranged in four series: Scrapbooks, Publications, Personal Papers and Awards.

Physical Location

RH MS E198

Physical Location

RH MS 586

Physical Location

RH MS-P 586

Physical Location

RH MS Q105

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, John B. McLendon, Jr, 1987.

Guide to the John B. McLendon Collection
Papers of John B. McLendon
Finding aid prepared by hhh, 2005. Finding aid encoded by hhh, 2005. Finding aid revised by mbw, 2009; skt, 2010; mwh, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Support for the processing of this Collection was provided by the Dana and Sue Anderson African American Collecting Program Endowment Fund.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
John B. McLendon Collection, Kansas Collection, RH MS E198, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States