Rockdale native’s college football team went to war en masse


Neighbor Grover sez always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

Rockdale native Graha Kyle, who coached football at RHS a few years after his World War II duty before resuming his military career, was the subject of a recent Sunday feature in the San Marcos Daily Record.

The story was written by Bibb Underwood based on information supplied by Linda Pennington of San Marcos, Graham Kyle’s daughter. What follows is from that story, plus my owl recollections.

Graham was born in Rockdale, son of local carpenter Jack Kyle. An outstanding athlete, he earned a football scholarship to Texas Wesleyan College.

In 1941, the Texas Wesleyan team played its football season and then went to war—enlisting virtually en masse—following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7.

Graham Kyle (L) and his Texas Wesleyan teammates enlisted en masse after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. At right, Kyle in Army Air Force uniform during WW II. Graham Kyle (L) and his Texas Wesleyan teammates enlisted en masse after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. At right, Kyle in Army Air Force uniform during WW II. “Texas Wesleyan was a small school but they had a winning season and Dad had offers from the Detroit Lions and one other team,” Pennington said, “but, of course, he chose to serve.”

Graham joined the Army Air Corps. With a shortage of officers, men with education were often sent to officer/ aviation training and commissioned, as he was.

He served four years during WW II. After his discharge he returned to Rockdale as football coach. He actually coached his brother, Jack Delbert Kyle who later earned Little All-American honors at Sam Houston State where he twice led the Lone Star Conference in rushing.

The Korean War broke out in 1950 and Graham enlisted again, this time making it a 20-plus-year career.

He headed the ROTC program at what is now Texas State University in San Marcos, then was picked to attend Air University in Montgomery, Ala., later serving on its faculty.

A tour in Japan followed where he coached a high-level Air Force football team. Major Kyle’s wife and children joined him in Japan after spending nine days on a military troop ship. (This was before 300-passenger jet airliners.)

Lt. Col. Kyle returned to Texas State as the ROTC Commandant. Then came a second tour with Air University, and then a prestigious post as Liaison to the Canadian Air Force while stationed in Winnipeg.

Graham’s stints at Texas State obviously made an impression. After his military retirement, he became the school’s Dean of Men.

A few asides:

• A son, Graham Kyle Jr., was also an Air Force pilot and flew bombing missions in Vietnam. He’s a retired Delta Airlines pilot.

• Texas Wesleyan restarted its football program this fall for the first time in the 76 years since that 1941 team played out its season and went to war. At the home opener, the 1941 team was honored in special ceremonies attended by family members.

• I was in junior-high school when Graham coached here after WW II. He was an impressive man and role model. Once, at an all-school assembly, he was presented with a new billfold containing $620 cash raised by fans and local businesses. This was pre-Alcoa, the town’s population was less than 2,000 and that amounted to a lot of money for a young teacher/coach.

• In the 1960s and early ‘70s I enjoyed playing golf with Graham while he lived in San Marcos. He played the Rockdale Country Club course many times, along with cousins T.J. Kyle of Forest Grove and Harry Kyle of Louisiana. All were very good golfers.

• Peg and I proudly named our first son Kyle.

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