Lamar Hunt: Sport’s Gentle Giant

In an era of over-the-top sports owners who make more headlines than their teams, Lamar Hunt (1932-2006) was known by most who knew him as a humble, down-to-earth man of exceptional character and thought, despite tremendous wealth and status.

Lamar Hunt’s life was not as outwardly colorful (or tragic) as other members of his immediate family. His father, H.L. was an oil tycoon who at one time was the richest man in the world. H.L. had fifteen children with three wives (two of his marriages overlapped). Lamar’s brother Haroldson “Hassie” underwent a lobotomy. Brothers William and Bunker monopolized the global silver market in the 1970s, a scheme that, with other speculation and political intrigue, unraveled in the 1980s.

Lamar began an affiliation with Kansas City in the early 1960s as the owner of the Kansas City Chiefs football franchise. Hunt contributed to and benefitted from the great expansion of the area in the late 1960s and early 1970s when projects like Kansas City International Airport, Bartle Hall, Kemper Arena, River Quay, the Truman Sports Complex and Crown Center were in development. Hunt himself invested in non-sports ventures like the Worlds of Fun theme park and several other industrial and commercial developments.

Induction into the National  Football Hall of Fame

Lamar Hunt’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.

Hunt received high honors for three professional sports and was inducted into three halls of fame:  the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972, the National Soccer HOF in 1992 and the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1993 for promoting World Championship Tennis.  The NFL’s AFC Championship trophy is known as the Lamar Hunt Trophy and Major League Soccer hosts the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Tournament.

Hunt died in 2006. His son, Clark, currently manages most of the sports ventures, sharing actual ownership with his siblings.

The library has two great books on the life and visionary mind of Lamar Hunt.

Lamar Hunt: The Gentle Giant Who Revolutionized Professional Sports by David A. F. Sweet. Triumph Books, 2010.

Lamar Hunt was best known as the founder of both the Kansas City Chiefs and the AFL, which later merged with the NFL to form the most successful sports league in U.S. history. Here, author David A. F. SweetHunt book 2 writes about how football was only one of the many interests in Hunt’s life and business ventures. Hunt seemed to be omnipresent in the sporting world, having helped form Major League Soccer, the modern pro tennis tour, and the Chicago Bulls. This biography delves deep into Hunt’s impact on many popular sports and reveals never-before-disclosed details of this soft-spoken man’s true importance in transforming the sporting landscape into the massive industry that it is today. Includes bibliographical references and index.

Hunt book 1Lamar Hunt: A Life in Sports by Michael MacCambridge. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012.

The definitive and official biography of one of the 20th century’s most important and beloved sporting figure, Lamar Hunt, who revolutionized three different sports–pro football, tennis, and soccer–winding up in the Hall of Fame of each. Includes bibliographical references and index.

Matt Pettit

Matt is a Public Service Specialist for the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. His areas of responsibility include outreach library services to nursing homes, senior, retirement and congregate living centers; service to homebound library users; the Kansas Talking Books service; Book Group in a Bag program and the history and sports neighborhoods of the library’s nonfiction collection. With a background in public administration, conflict resolution and aging, Matt works on civic engagement and civil discourse issues for the library and serves on the advisory board of the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging.