Pocahontas native was first football All-American in Arkansas; first UA athlete to letter in four sports

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 802 views 

The Pocahontas City Hall sits on historic ground. A century ago, Wear Kibler Schoonover’s boyhood home was located on that spot. Schoonover would become the first football player in the history of the University of Arkansas and the former Southwest Conference to make the All-American team.

He’s enshrined in the National College Hall of Fame, the Razorback Hall of Honor, a member of the school’s all-century team, and was one of the five charter members of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Schoonover died in 1982, but he continues to be honored and revered. The city of Pocahontas and Five Rivers Historic Preservation recently dedicated a marker at City Hall honoring his accomplishments, FRHP Vice-Chairman Linda Bowlin told Talk Business & Politics. Schoonover is set to be inducted into the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame on Oct. 30 at the Little Rock Touchdown Club. The Pocahontas High School football field has been renamed in his honor, she said.

A marker dedication ceremony was held Sept. 29. His daughter, Martha, and several dignitaries from the UA and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame attended.

“We wanted people to know where his house was located, and what he accomplished during his life,” Bowlin said.

Schoonover was born March 18, 1910 to an attorney, Eugene Gardiner Schoonover and his wife, Estelle, according the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Early in his life, he showed an aptitude in sports, and was an excellent student. After graduating from Pocahontas High School, he took his sports and academic prowess to UA. The 6’3′ athlete made an immediate impact on the fields and hardwood in Northwest Arkansas.

In 1929, he set the SWC single game records with 13 catches and 152 yards gained against Baylor. He finished the season with 33 catches, 342 total yards and six touchdowns. His stats were gaudy during a run-dominant era and he won All-American accolades as an end that year.

When football finished, he turned his focus to basketball. He played forward, and was a central player on teams that won three straight conference titles. College Humor Magazine named him an All-American second teamer at forward in 1930. When spring arrived he played and lettered in baseball and track. He was the first UA athlete to letter in four sports, Bowlin said.

Schoonover graduated with a 3.85 grade point average, and in 1929 he was selected as the university’s candidate for the Rhodes Scholarship. His GPA leads the all-time UA academic team. Schoonover also appeared in the movie “Maybe It’s Love” staring Joan Bennett in 1930.

After he graduated, he served as an assistant coach of athletics at the UA while he pursued a law degree. Once he finished his law degree in 1935, Schoonover served in the Navy. The Pocahontas-native served for three and half years during World War II and rose to the rank of captain. After the war, he landed a job working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington D.C. Schoonover eventually became the department’s director of production and stabilization.

He retired in the 1970s, and died May 15, 1982 in Virginia. He’s buried there, Bowlin said. Many generations of his family have lived in Randolph County, and he’s key historic figure, she said.

“He’s a piece of Pocahontas history,” she said.