Linwood Sexton set high standards for Shocker football on and off the field.
As a record-breaking halfback in the 1940s, Sexton earned All-Missouri Valley Conference honors three times for the University of Wichita. He also led the way for black athletes at the school by gracefully handling racial discrimination during that time.
Sexton, 90, died Wednesday, according the university’s athletic department. He is the father of former Wichita State athletic director Eric Sexton.
Mr. Sexton, who attended East, led the Shockers in total offense in 1946 and 1947, helping them to a berth in the 1947 Raisin Bowl. That season, he led the Shockers with 702 rushing yards and 312 passing. He earned All-MVC honors in 1945, 1946 and 1947, despite not playing in all games. Mr. Sexton often sat out games in places such as Tulsa and West Texas State because of his race. On some trips, Sexton could not stay in the hotel or eat with his teammates.
In 1946, teammates vowed to bring Mr. Sexton the game ball from a trip to West Texas State, and did so despite objections from the home fans and the university. The Shockers autographed the ball and gave it to Mr. Sexton. In 1947, WU lost to Tulsa 7-0 with a conference title at stake, playing without Mr. Sexton.
“I had decent speed, plus at that time being the only black on the team you had all kinds of conversations from opposing players,” Mr. Sexton said in the “Shocker Handbook,” published in 1995. “They called me everything but a child of God.”
Mr. Sexton survived and helped future athletes deal with discrimination. He taught future Kansas City Chiefs running back Curtis McClinton in sixth grade. Cleo Littleton, a Shocker basketball star in the 1950s, credits Mr. Sexton with showing him how to keep his composure in the face of anger and insults. He called Sexton the “Godfather” for his guidance.
“He explained to me, ‘You cannot retaliate against players or fans who abuse you. You just have to suck it up and keep going,’ ” Littleton said in a past Eagle story. “If Linwood can do it, I can do it. So I patterned my life after him and thank him for his guidance and words of wisdom.”
Mr. Sexton is a member of the MVC Athletics Hall of Fame, the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
After graduation, he taught elementary school for four years before going to work at Hiland Dairy in 1953 and remained there until his retirement. He also served on the Kansas Board of Regents, the Wichita State Board of Trustees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Citizens Advisory Council on Civil Rights. In 2012, he was one of 13 to receive the Pioneer Award from the John McLendon Minority Scholarship Foundation.
WSU athletic director Darron Boatright said Wednesday evening that a memorial service for Mr. Sexton will be held on April 8 at Koch Arena, with the time to be determined. The university played host to a similar celebration of Dave Stallworth’s life earlier this month after the Shocker basketball great died at the age of 75.