Fellowship of Christian Athletes
In March 1954, World War II Navy combat veteran and Eastern Oklahoma State College Head Basketball Coach Don McClanen (1925-2016) wrote a letter to 19 prominent American sportsmen. They included Olympians, college and professional stars, and famous coaches, including Oklahoma Sooner football coach Bud Wilkinson. The letter would change the course of American history. It led to the formation of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). An excerpt:
“I have had the idea of forming an organization of athletes and coaches in this hero-worshiping nation of ours. If athletes can endorse shaving cream, razor blades, and cigarettes, surely they can endorse the Lord, too. So my idea is to form an organization that would project you as Christian men before the youth and athletes of our nation.”
During his wartime service as a submariner in the Pacific, two different Naval officers, unknown to one another, had, unsolicited, suggested that McClanen should attend Oklahoma A&M in Stillwater. “I don’t take those things lightly,” McClannen later told journalist Jenni Carlson. Sensing the Lord’s leading, the New Jersey native migrated to Stillwater, attended A&M, and was “hired” by legendary Aggie basketball coach Hank Iba as a team manager. Iba’s influence then helped him secure head coaching jobs first at tiny Norfolk High School near Stillwater, then at Eastern.
There, in the remote little southeastern Oklahoma town of Wilburton, amidst the Bible Belt influence of his newly adopted state, McClanen conceived the idea of the most influential athletics-related ministry in American history. Benefitting from Wilkinson’s encouragement, FCA was birthed in Norman, and resided there its first few years. The organization then moved to Kansas City, its headquarters since. Now, over 450 offices and more than 1,000 staff members across the United States, as well as camps in over 20 foreign countries, reach two million athletes of every age each year.
McClanen later ministered in inner-city Washington, D.C., and with Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity in India. During his final years, he told Carlson: “I'm not surprised by FCA's success because I'm not surprised what God can do. From such a humble beginning…it's just more evidence that God is in it.”
The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book
Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
which can be purchased HERE.
View the inspiring 2-minute preview video HERE.