Topeka Capital-Journal – August 25, 2000
There’s a connection between Bud Wilkinson and a song called “Chicken Fat,” but I never expected to be reminded of it this week when I was in Oklahoma being interviewed for a TV biography of the late Sooner football coach. But it was there, in the Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman, on the same morning I faced the camera.
Some background is in order. In 1961, soon after President John F. Kennedy took office, he asked one of his aides, Ted Reardon, to figure out what he should do with the fitness program inherited from the Eisenhower administration.
Eisenhower was concerned because American children lagged far behind Europeans in strength and fitness tests, so he created the President’s Council on Youth Fitness.
To lead it, he named an orator, Shane McCarthy, who went around the country extolling the merits of a strong mind in a strong body, and attending a lot of meetings and seminars on what should be done to get American youngsters leaner and tougher.
Reardon studied the problem, then wrote a memo to the president, saying what the program needed first was a sports personality who presented an image of both physical fitness and personal integrity.
Reardon would tell me later that as he dictated the memo, the next sentence just rolled off his tongue without him having to even think about it. “What the program needs,” he said, “is someone like Bud Wilkinson.” Continue reading