Thornton, Dick, 1939-2014
- Existence: 1939 - 2014
Richard “Dick” B. Thornton was born on November 1, 1939 in Chicago, Illinois. He began playing football at the age of three, learning from his father, Harry Richard Thornton, who played for the Missouri School of Mines, Philadelphia Eagles and the St. Louis Gunners. Dick Thornton’s high school football career began at Lane Technical High School, playing on the freshman team. Thornton then moved to Taft High School, playing there as starting quarterback for his junior and senior years.
Thornton began his Northwestern University varsity football career in 1958, once again playing quarterback. Thornton helped revitalize the Northwestern football program, one that had been quite lackluster the ten years before his arrival. Thornton helped Northwestern defeat national powerhouses such as the University of Oklahoma Sooners, the University of Michigan Wolverines, and The Ohio State University Buckeyes, among others. In 1959, Thornton led Northwestern to an impressive 45-13 win over Oklahoma only to break his ankle the very next week in a game against the University of Iowa. Thornton was out for the rest of the season, which convinced the NCAA to grant him another year of eligibility. Thornton turned down this offer in pursuit of a professional football career.
Thornton was drafted by a number of teams. In the National Football League he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns, who then traded his rights to the St. Louis Cardinals (the then existing football team, not to be confused with the Major League Baseball team of the same name). In the then very young American Football League he was drafted by the Dallas Texans. In the Canadian Football League he was drafted by the Winnipeg Blue-Bombers. Thornton eventually decided that Winnipeg was the best option due to financial considerations. Thornton played in Winnipeg from 1961-1967, winning two Grey Cups (the Canadian equivalent of the Super Bowl). He then played for the Toronto Argonauts from 1967-1972. His playing career ended when he became the athletic director and head coach of the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League in 1974. Thornton then became the senior executive of Southwestern University in Memphis, Tennessee before becoming an international marketing executive for the Coca-Cola Company in 1980. Thornton moved to The Philippines, and died on December 19, 2014 in Manila.
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Richard B. "Dick" Thornton played football for Northwestern Unviersity (1958 and 1959), and for several professional American and Canadian football teams. After football coaching and university positions, he became an international marketing executive for the Coca-Cola Company. His papers contain correspondence and mementos from throughout his life.