About 1,000 sign petition seeking renaming of Lindley Hall

Chad Frey
The Kansan

• Related story (April 28, 2019): Under a coaching legend, NHS basketball was segregated

• Related story (Oct. 30, 2019): History to be denoted at Lindley Hall

• Related story (Sept. 25, 2019): Newton BOE discusses naming of Lindley Hall

• Related story (Nov. 11, 2020): Dealing with a tarnished legacy: Lindley Hall

• Related story (Feb. 1, 2021): Online petition seeks to rename USD 373's Lindley Hall. 

Anthony Cuellar retired after a career of teaching in the schools he grew up in — Newton USD 373. This week he visited the board of education, again, to talk about a life-changing experience he had at an education conference and what that means as he continues to lobby the board for a change at Lindley Hall. 

A storm passed through Newton June 25 and 26, damaging Lindley Hall on North Poplar Street. Whether or not the lettering designating the building as "Historic Lindley Hall" has not been discussed by the Board of Education as the district works through repair plans.

He also carried a petition with him, filled with the names of those who support making a change. 

He told the story of seeing panhandler, and how not only he, but those around him, avoided that panhandler. 

"He was invisible. They just kept walking, never turning his way." Cuellar said. "... Finally, he drew his arms to his side and he started shouting. He was not shouting to anybody in particular. 'I am a human being. I exist, don't pretend you don't see me.'"

Cuellar was moved, and he gave the man the last $10 he had in his pocket. He also never forgot that moment. 

"All he wanted was to be acknowledged as a human being. ... That is all any of us want," Cuellar said. "... This is my anger and my disgust over that Lindley Hall name. If we can hard back to his glory days, we can hard back his students' pain. Frank Lindley did not think of them as human beings. He did not treat them as human beings. They did not fit his criteria of human beings."

Cuellar presented a petition, one with nearly 1,000 signatures, seeking to have the Lindley name removed from the building. The building was named when it was constructed in 1938.   

The building, which is owned by USD 373, is the gymnasium for Santa Fe 5/6 Center. The letters designating the building “Historic Lindley Hall” went up on the building in 2008, nearly 75 years after the gymnasium was built on North Poplar.

June 25 a storm that swept through the area damaged the building — collapsing part of the facade over the main entrance, and taking the letters off the building. 

"Some force took that name off that building. You can replace it or not. Just remember that your decision ultimately marks your legacy," Cuellar said. 

A committee, headed by current board members Andy Ortiz and Luke Edwards, has been meeting since November to discuss how to deal with the legacy of Frank Lindley 

The committee never seriously discussed removing the name of the building, and was readying a proposal for honoring players who never got to play for the varisty team under Lindley when the storm damaged the building and forced the district into a repair mode. 

The building, and sidewalk in front of the building, will be closed as school begins. Engineering inspections of both the exterior and interior of the building are being completed and guiding repair decisions. 

Whether or not the "Historic Lindley Hall" letters will be again be placed on the building has not been discussed by the board of education. 

Frank Lindley, who coached Newton High School from 1914 to 1945, finished his coaching career with a record of 594-118, eight state titles and eight state runner-ups. He also served as Newton High School principal from 1921-1951. The gymnasium at Santa Fe 5/6 Center is named for him.

Frank Lindley, who coached Newton High School from 1914 to 1945, finished his coaching career with a record of 594-118, eight state titles and eight state runner-ups. He also served as Newton High School principal from 1921-1951. The gymnasium at Santa Fe 5/6 Center is named for him.

Letters designating "Historic Lindley Hall," purchased with private funds, were placed on the building in 2008.

In 2019 during Black History Month, the Newton Kansan published a story documenting the racial practice of Lindley in the area of basketball. 

For some of the winningest decades of basketball in the history of the school, only white people were allowed on the team. The first  person of color to play basketball appears in the team record books in 1952, when No. 13 Bernie Castro earned a spot on the club as a freshman under coach John Ravenscroft — for whom the current gym at Newton High School is named. Newton won a state title that year.

Under Frank Lindley,  people of color never played basketball on the Newton High School team. People of color were part of other sports teams — most notably football — at the school. Separate teams for Black and Hispanic basketball players were established. The Black team was given hand-me-down uniforms from the high school team. Neither the Black or Hispanic team were able to practice or play games at Newton High School or Lindley Hall. 

A grassroots effort showing support for the renaming of Lindley Hall at Santa Fe 5/6 Center was started at Change.org in January.