Alumni & Friends

Recognition Awards


Outstanding Tiger Alumni Award

1994


Lafayette Norwood

Class of 1954

 

Lafayette Norwood The odds were stacked heavily against Lafayette Norwood. He is black. Five feet, 6 inches tall. He was a college student during a time of racial unrest in the United States. But Norwood was determined to succeed. He helped the Cowley basketball team to a 29-5 season record and a second-place finish in the national junior college tournament after the 1952-53 season. And the 1954 Cowley graduate went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern College in Winfield and a master’s degree from Wichita State University.

 

Today, as Norwood is about to receive one of the Outstanding Tiger Alumni awards, he can reflect on his days at Cowley and his many accomplishments.

“You always like to go back, where you got some of your roots,” Norwood said. “It’s a pleasure to go back.”

 

Norwood, originally from Oklahoma, spent most of his life in Wichita. He graduated from Wichita East High School and was asked by then Cowley coach Dan Kahler to come to Arkansas City and be a Tiger. Although hesitant, Norwood obliged. “I didn’t know if I really wanted to go there,” he said. “But he (Kahler) based everything on individual character, academics and obviously athletics. Those three features went together. He found that in me.”

 

Kahler, this year’s commencement speaker at Cowley, formed one of the most talented teams in Cowley history that season. Joining Norwood were Ray Potter, East High teammate Linwood Burns, J.C. Louderback and Jim Reed on the starting five.

 

After two successful seasons at Cowley, Norwood and Potter helped Southwestern win the conference title and reach the semifinal round of the national tournament his junior season. Norwood returned to Wichita after graduating from Southwestern, serving the school district as a teacher at the elementary and junior high levels. He taught and was an assistant basketball coach at Wichita East for a year, then enjoyed nine years as head coach at Wichita Heights. At Heights, Norwood coached standouts Darnell Valentine and Antoine Carr. At the end of the 1977 season, Valentine’s senior year, Heights won the state championship. That same year Heights finished with a 28-3 record and ranked fourth in the nation. “They were talented youngsters, easy to work with and very coachable,” Norwood said. “After the 1977 season Norwood joined Ted Owens’ staff at the University of Kansas and remained an assistant coach four years. A year after leaving KU, Norwood joined the faculty of Johnson County Community College. He was head basketball coach nine years and is the winningest basketball coach in JCCC history.

 

Norwood is now in his third year as golf coach at the school. He also works with youth ages 11-17 in the Kansas City metro area. “I work with a group of youth throughout the metro area,” he said. “It’s a basketball organization of youngsters on a select team. We travel all over the United States. I coordinate those teams.”

 

Not all of Norwood’s experiences were positive when he was in college. “We (blacks) were denied opportunities the rest of the population was able to enjoy,” he said. “But I was inclined to not let anything disturb me as far as my education.”

 

He became the first black head coach in Wichita, breaking barriers that had never been touched before. “It was very rewarding,” he said. “I made an effort to turn something very negative into something positive. I knew if I could make it through I could make it easier for someone behind me.”

 

Norwood met his wife of 40 years, the former Betty A. White, while attending Cowley.

 

“That was the pivotal point of my life,” Norwood said. “She’s from Ark City, and we’ve been married 40 years.”