Joseph A. Cleavenger
Attended Leavenworth Senior High School (1932-1936). Earned seven varsity letters in football and track. Was the Northeast Kansas League Champion in the mile run. After graduation, stayed at Leavenworth from 1936 to 1937 to assist coach C.W. Ridgway in football and as an assistant trainer. There he began training as a sports official. Attended Baker University from 1937-1941, graduating with a degree in physical education in 1941. Earned six varsity letters: football (4), track (1) and baseball (1). Was captain of the football team in 1940 and was an all-conference player in 1939 and 1940.
Began coaching career in 1941 at Buckner, Mo. Coached football, basketball, track and softball. In 1942 coached football at Stanley. Served in the U.S. Navy during World War II in 1943, attended the attack boat training center at Fort Pierce, Fla. Represented this Naval Center as a member of its football team which played other military training centers in the Southeast. Home games were played in the Orange Bowl in Miami. Competed with and against All-Americans Hampton Poole (Stanford), Bill Daily (Army), Nick Waslic (Ohio State), Eddie Crowder (Oklahoma) and Clyde Jeffrey (UCLA), The Olympic world record holder in the 220. Following the war he received his master’s degree in physical education and school administration from Kansas University (1947). Continued coaching in 1946 at WaKeeney and in 1947 at Sabetha, where he coached the American Legion baseball state champions. Joe served as director of St. John’s Military School in Salina from 1948 to 1951.
In 1952, he moved to Linwood Rural High School where he served as principal until 1960. He was chosen as school superintendent of the Baldwin City School District in 1960, serving there until he was named superintendent of the Sabetha School District in 1966. He retired because of health reasons in 1976. Through the years he also found time to officiate hundreds of Kansas high school and college football, basketball and baseball games. Joe was nominated for this high honor by six previous inductees to this Hall of Fame.
Additional nominations were received from former students who were influenced both to attend Baker University and who benefited from his guidance and encouragement. Joe was married in 1941 to Margaret Davison. A Baldwin City native who passed away during the summer of 1991. They have two sons: J.D. and Don.