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Tunnicliff, Ed, 1925-2021



  • Existence: 1925 - 2021


Edward Mear Tunnicliff was born in Ord, Nebraska on December 20, 1925, to Mabel (nee McMullen) and Adam William Tunnicliff. He attended grade school in Ord, Nebraska, until he and his family moved to Kewanee, Illinois, where Tunnicliff attended Kewanee High School from 1940 to 1944. Directly out of high school (July of 1944), Tunnicliff enlisted as a Private First Class in the United States Army for service in World War II, serving in an armored division under the direction of General George Patton, until his honorable discharge in July of 1946. He was decorated with a Purple Heart for his service. Tunnicliff then enrolled at Northwestern University in September of 1946 (assisted by the GI Bill) and was an active member of many clubs and associations, such as Deru (a seniors-only honor society), the N Men’s Club (an athletic honor society), and his fraternity, Phi Kappa Sigma.

Though he also distinguished himself on the Northwestern track and field team, Tunnicliff is best known for scoring the winning touchdown for Northwestern in the 1949 Rose Bowl against the University of California. A Chicago Tribune article published on the 61st anniversary of the Northwestern ’49 Rose Bowl win attributed Tunnicliff’s remarkable concentration and drive, which helped him score under immense pressure, to the discipline and training he received in the Army during World War II. In a trick strategy that the team had practiced many times but had never played on the field, the ball was surreptitiously snapped to Tunnicliff, who ran 45 yards and was almost stopped by the University of California’s (much larger) Frank Brunk en route to the end zone. At the seven-yard line, Brunk grabbed Tunnicliff and tried to bring him to the ground, but Tunnicliff’s momentum pushed him forward enough to score the touchdown. When interviewed about the game-winning play, Tunnicliff recalled his thinking, “I'm going to get to that goal line if I have to carry the whole stadium.”

Tunnicliff graduated from Northwestern in 1950 with a BS in public speaking from the School of Speech. Although he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 18th round of the 1950 National Football League draft, he opted to coach high school football instead. He coached at Pekin High School in Pekin, Illinois, for two years, followed by five years at Reavis High School in Oak Lawn, Illinois. He went on to become a life insurance salesman for the Equitable Life Assurance Society in 1957 and was promoted to District Manager in 1966.

Tunnicliff and his wife Kathryn "Kay" M. Jones had 4 children. Tunnicliff died in Kingsford, Michigan on May 4, 2021.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Edward "Ed" Tunnicliff (1925-2021) Collection

Identifier: 31/6/128

Northwestern football star Edward Tunnicliff (School of Speech 1950) scored the final touchdown and won the game for Northwestern in the 1949 Rose Bowl. This collection documents Tunnicliff’s involvement with Northwestern football with a scrapbook and artifacts.

Dates: 1944 - 2013; Other: Majority of material found within 1944 - 1949