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Top Ten Telegrams/Eulogies Mourning Knute Rockne’s Death

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Knute Rockne Dies in Airplane Crash

The New York Times, April 1, 1931-MITCHELL ARCHIVES.COM

The date was 3-31-31. While there was, on that same date, an earthquake in Nicaragua that killed thousands, the Midwestern newspaper headlines (and indeed those around the world) instead centered upon a small airplane crash in Kansas that killed eight. The first seven would have died unnoticed, but the death of the last passenger (according to the United Press accounts) "shocked the entire world, and business and industry was halted ..." Within minutes, telegrams from the President of the United States, the King of Norway and heads of state from nearly every country, not to mention the presidents of colleges as well as athletes such as Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey, began arriving. Meanwhile, millions of boys wept. The eighth man on that plane was Knute Kenneth Rockne.

While virtually no one disagreed with my slide show (soon to be a Rant staple!) pick of Rockne as the top coach in Notre Dame’s illustrious football history, many, not really knowing history, wondered if my claim that he was “mourned throughout the world” was a bit of an exaggeration. But if Rockne was merely the greatest coach who ever lived (again, a little disagreement here too), his death at forty-three would not have brought such grief, nor would his legend have been so lasting. Thus this slide show, "Top Ten Telegrams/Eulogies Mourning Knute Rockne's Death," goes back in time, and hopefully by capturing the thoughts of those who lived in that era, you will get a better understanding of why the name of Rockne is still reverenced at Notre Dame and relevant for the world at large.

Or, to paraphrase another famous Notre Dame fan, “You are Knute, and upon this Rockne I will build the Irish, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them...”

Hey ND fans! Follow this link to get to Tom's latest ND features. Follow him on Twitter and visit him on LinkedIn. Subscribe to his feed here and email him here. And for you diehard fans, check out Suffering Irish too.

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#10 Herbert Hoover

"Mr. Rockne so contributed to a cleanness and high purpose in athletics that his passing is a national loss." —Herbert Hoover
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#9 James L. Knox, President of Harvard

Knute Rockne 1926-NOTRE DAME.EDU
"One man like Rockne means more to our country than a million reformers, and if football produces one Rockne in each generation, the nation can ill afford to curtail football." —James L. Knox, President of Harvard
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#8 North Carolina Christian Advocate

north carolina christian advocate
"He was a king among men. We have never met a man with greater personal magnetism, not even William Jennings Bryan." —North Carolina Christian Advocate (Methodist)
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#7 Westbrook Pegler, sportswriter

"I read that youth has no idols nowadays. But they had one at Notre Dame." —Westbrook Pegler, sportswriter
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#6 James J. David, President of Mooseheart

Mooseheart Boys Band-MOOSEHEART
"Knute Rockne was a strong moral force and an inspiration to the youth of our land. Fourteen hundred orphan children of Mooseheart Illinois will always remember his timely and inspiring talks to them." —James J. David, President of Mooseheart
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#5 Father Francis Clement Kelley, Bishop of Oklahoma

"When I heard of Rockne's death, something unusual happened; tears came into my eyes that I thought long ago had shed all they could hold. Now I know I was only one of a multitude who never spoke a word to Rockne but loved him. Rockne was Sorin without a cassock or breviary." —Rev. Francis Clement Kelley, Bishop of Oklahoma
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#4 Cleveland Press

cleveland press
"In the past generation, it was Buffalo Bill. For this generation, it was Knute Rockne. The boy had a profound respect for Knute Rockne, and Rockne for the boy. Each read the other's mind, and they were heroes to each other. Millions of boys (and men, girls and women) bow in grief at the news that Rockne is dead, because for millions he was greater than the president." —Cleveland Press
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#3 The Denver News

Notre Dame
"No other death could have brought more universal sorrow than this. Knute Rockne's name was a household word. Boys who could not yet read could tell you about Rockne ... there have been big figures in sports but none who have attained the size of Rockne ... the game has ended, but in every department of play, Knute Rockne has won." —The Denver News
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#2 Will Rogers

will rogers
"We thought it would take a president's death to make a whole nation, regardless of age, race or creed, shake their heads in real sincere sorrow ... Well, that's what this country did today Knute for you. You died a national hero ... Notre Dame was your address, but every gridiron in America was your home." —Will Rogers
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#1 (tie) Rev. John F. O'Hara, University of Notre Dame

Rev. John F. O'Hara with Elmer Layden (to his left)-IRISH LEGENDS.COM
"Knute Rockne has had a wider influence in developing the ideals of fair play than any other man in his generation, and he did it under the banner of the Mother of God." —Rev. John F. O'Hara, University of Notre Dame
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#1 (tie) Charles O'Donnell, President of Notre Dame

Knute Rockne with his wife, Bonnie Skiles, 1931-ALL POSTERS.COM
"What was the secret of his irresistible appeal to all sorts and conditions of men? I do not know the answer. But in this hour of piteous loss and pained bewilderment, I find myself recalling the words of Christ, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart ... and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' Knute loved God and neighbor with a genuine deep love, and his case verifies the Christian paradox—he has cast away to keep, he has lost his life to find it." —Charles O'Donnell, President of Notre Dame


Hey ND fans! Follow this link to get to Tom's latest ND features. Follow him on Twitter and visit him on LinkedIn. Subscribe to his feed here and email him here. And for you diehard fans, check out Suffering Irish too.