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Lindley history workgroup begins meeting

Chad Frey
The Kansan

Frank Lindley is the Newton High School Hall of Fame, and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, as a basketball coach. His success, and overall story, is layered and multifaceted. 

And how to tell his story — both the good and the bad — is now the topic of discussion of a workgroup appointed by the Newton Board of Education. 

"There are stories that were not told well in the past. Frank Lindley have been told in numerous different forms," said Luke Edwards, mamber of the Newton Board of Education. "For those who have been left out, we want to do that."

That workgroup led by Edwards and co-board member Andy Ortiz met for the first time Tuesday. 

The workgroup grew out of board discussions that started in 2019, when during Black History Month, The Newton Kansan published a story documenting the racial practice of Lindley in the area of basketball. 

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 team nor the Hispanic team was able to practice or play games at Newton High School or Lindley Hall. 

Frank Lindley was the Newton High School boys basketball coach from 1914-1945 and is considered one of the first coaches in the country to use the zone defense. Lindley finished his coaching career with a record of 594-118, eight state titles and eight state runner-ups. In 1931 his team finished undefeated. He also served as Newton High School principal from 1921-1951.

Community members have approached the board of education on multiple occasions in the past two years seeking the removal of Lindley's name from the gymnasium at Santa Fe 5/6 Center that was constructed when Lindley was principal of the high school, which was located where Santa Fe is now. 

A sign declaring the building "Historic Lindley Hall" was placed on the building, using private funds, in 2008. 

In November 2020, the board of education took a move forward with an effort to deal with Lindley's historical record — creating a seven-member committee at the suggestion of board member Matt Treaster to discuss how to recognize the history and racism displayed. That action was a follow-up to discussions that occurred on Oct. 29, 2019. 

This month a petition surfaced at change.org calling for the removal of Lindley's name from the building. This week, 750 signatures appear on the petition. 

The working group that met this week will not be discussing a name change to the building — but it will discuss how Lindley will be memorialized there. 

And before they could even meet, there was criticism — as a recent board agenda referred to a Lindley historical plaque, an idea that some find insufficient to document the full history. 

"It will be an historical display, not just a plaque," Edwards said. "That decision was made by the board in Nov. of 2019. ... We want to continue the project and do it right. For community members who are concerned ... if you have strong suggestions, get ahold of one of us and make recommendations if you like. We are going to give a good effort, and we believe that we can do something that is really good."