From 1974 to 1978, the place to be on a Saturday night was at a Newton Nite Hawks football game at Holland-Paterson Memorial Field or H.A. Lynn Field. The Nite Hawks were a semi-professional football team which called Newton home.
One of the founders and former coaches, James (Jim) Fred Williams died on July 21 in Shreveport, La. It was Williams and Newton businessman Jim Foster who founded the team in 1974.
“Jim Williams was an army recruiter here in Newton at the time. He served as the team’s defensive coordinator the first season then was our head coach the second year,” said Stan Allspach, former Nite Hawk player and assistant coach at William Penn University in Oskaloosa.
Williams guided the Nite Hawks to the 1975 Chicagoland Football League championship. Williams was inducted into the American Football Assoication Semi-Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996. He, along with Foster, as an executive, former Daily News sports editor Ed Peck and five players from the
Newton Nite Hawks are in the Hall of Fame.
“We could only get into the Chicagoland league in 1974. We had to pay teams to come to Iowa to play us. The team only played five years, but the Newton community really supported the team,” Allspach said. “Unfortuantely after the 1975 season, Jim was transferred as an army recruiter.”
Allspach was the quarterback on the 1975 team under Williams. Allspach was inducted into the semi-pro Hall of Fame in 1991. He is a member of the William Penn athletic hall of fame as a quarterback.
Williams was a Vietnam veteran, serving his country for 20 years in both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army. After winning the CFL championship with the Newton Nite Hawks, and he coached the Shreveport Steams to the AFA title.
Williams coached the Washington Commandos, winning the first-ever Arena Football game. Williams’ Nite Hawks founding partner, Jim Foster, developed the patent for Arena Football.
“We’re planning a memorial for Jim in Newton soon. We’re working on the details now,” Allspach said.
Williams coached high schools and middle schools in the Shreveport, La., area. He retired from the Caddo Parish school system after 20 years of service.
He is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Shaun and Sassy Williams; daughter, Maurna Cay Thornton; and grandchildren Savannah and Brady Williams, Cayla, Aaron and Avery Thornton.
The Newton Nite Hawks made football history in 1977. Through the entrepreneurial efforts of Jim Foster, the Newton Nite Hawks were chosen to play a five-game football tour in Europe with the Chicago Lions in early June. It was the first time professional teams (pro or semi-pro) had played American football on the European continent.
The Nite Hawks won all five games in Europe..