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Jack Cardiff

One of the more unusual characters‑‑in the good sense of the word‑‑that ever graced the Wheaton College campus was the school's athletic trainer during the years 1936‑1940. Known to the campus as "Doc" Cardiff , he was actually born Charles Kaiser Morris.

Almost nothing is known now about Charles' early youth, born to John W. (1840‑?) and Anna Marie (Orth) Morris in Reading, PA on September 28, 1877. History picks him up at age 19 when he married 17‑year old Blanche Virginia Goodwin in Pennsylvania in 1896. Together they produced two daughters, Kathyrn on March 10, 1899 and Emily shortly thereafter. At the age of 18 Kathyrn married Lloyd Lathiryl Diamond of Kansas and had two children: Lathirlyn Virginia (2/10/1920) and Jack Robert (10/24/1921). Lathirlyn married Robert Estrada and their two children were Eric and Ann Louise.

Charles Morris, or Jack Cardiff as boxing records show, entered the ring on May 16, 1904 for his first bout as a professional boxer in the lightweight class against Tim Callahan in Williamsport, PA and lost by decision in ten rounds A month later he faced Billy Willis in Philadelphia and the fight was over after six rounds, a loss. Jack O'Neil knocked him out six months later in four rounds, one of two times in 17 bouts he was counted out. Things were not going well for the young boxer; he had five bouts in 1905 without a win. But on January 19, 1906 Morris, inspired by the crowd in his first fight in hometown Reading, avenged his defeat to Callahan, outpointing him in 10 rounds. In the rubber match with Callahan three months later, again in Reading, he lost by decision in a marathon 20 rounds.

In 1916 Morris legally changed his name to Jack C. Cardiff after using it professionally for over a decade, presumably because his father was embarrassed that his son would use the family name as a prize fighter. In those years a pro boxer was typically viewed as a brawler with questionable morals, and Jack was by reputation a rowdy in his youth.

Cardiff fought for prize money seven more times in succeeding years, his last pro bout on May 10, 1910 at almost age 33. "Cardiff" was pitted over his six‑year career against much more experienced fighters. Every one of his first 16 opponents had career winning records. Billy Willis, for example, was 61 wins, 17 losses and 2l draws when they met for the second time in 1905. Willie Fitzgerald in 1907 had put on the gloves an incredible 111 times when he put young Jack on the canvas before his Reading friends.

The 5'‑6" Morris could take a pretty good punch but either never had enough natural talent to break through to the next level, or lacked a manager to help him improve and certainly wasn't being given bouts early‑on against boxers of comparable ring experience.

Cardiff eventually hooked-up with Billy Sunday. Homer Rodeheaver, in his 1936 book, "Twenty Years With Billy Sunday", details how the two met. Sunday’s doctor, Howard Kelly, had convinced Sunday of the importance of rest and as well as "a rubdown directly after the night service." While in Canton, Ohio Sunday met up with Cardiff and asked him to look after his physical needs. He would give Sunday the daily massages Dr. Kelly had advised.

Cardiff’s passion for his new‑found faith coupled with what ex‑professional ballplayer Sunday appreciated in Cardiff's fight career, allowed him to appear occasionally on the platform as a celebrity "champion" boxer giving his Christian testimony. In 1915, well‑known feature writer, John Read, wrote a lengthy profile ("Back of Billy Sunday") during a Philadelphia crusade and was published in "Metropolitan," a 15-cent monthly New York magazine. In it Read mentions Cardiff as Sunday’s trainer and bodyguard. Cardiff was quoted, saying “’I was well on my way to be welter‑weight champion of the world,’ said Jack. ‘When I was converted I was getting $800 a week to fight in theaters. It's three years now since I heard Billy Sunday and saw the Light…Yes, I sure gave up something for my Savior, but it was worth it. I've been with Billy now about a year, sparring with him and rubbing down. He's a great man!’

Even though Cardiff never appears on the masthead of Sunday's letterheads, McLoughlin lists Sunday's official staff of 14 and adds below: "And this did not include Sunday's personal masseur, Jack Cardiff, who had become a contender for the welterweight boxing title when he was converted and joined Sunday in 1912. He left the party in 1917 to become pastor of a church in Anthony, Kansas, and Peterson took over his duties."

However, previously, Cardiff's 1916 registration for the World War I draft identifies his occupation as a self‑employed minister with a Kansas location (where his wife had relatives). It was a year later that the Cardiffs moved to popular lake resort town Winona Lake, Indiana as nearby‑neighbors of the Rodeheavers and to where the Sundays had built their home in 1911. The large conference center was subsequently named after Rodeheaver. The 1930 census continues to show the Cardiffs in residence there.

Even though Jack had been holding evangelistic services since his conversion, he realized that his six‑grade education eventually needed supplementing if he was to share his Faith and preach with any effectiveness. So from March 1916 to November 1916, when the Cardiffs lived at 215 Locust Street, Chicago, he attended Moody Evening School. However he immediately enrolled in Day School that month and attended classes into January 1917 in personal evangelism, Bible analysis, public speaking and pastoral theology. Since he did not complete the term, no grades were given and he did not graduate from MBI. It would appear that the Cardiffs moved back to Winona Lake.

In late August 1926 Cardiff was licensed, ordained and installed as pastor of the Centerville Church in the Kalamazoo Presbytery of Michigan where he remained for two years. He, once again, moved back to his homestead in Winona Lake, Indiana, engaging evangelistic work as a member of the Billy Sunday Group.

Though it sounded good and looked good on paper, Cardiff never was a boxing champion. And while we can stretch a point to acknowledge that he served the Billy Sunday Team off and on for the fifteen years published in the school newspaper, technically his length of actual employment with the Billy Sunday team is identified as five years. Even the surname he now owns was totally different from that which was legally his for his first 29 years!

Did, or would, any of these discrepancies matter to those on Wheaton's campus he befriended and vice versa? Not in the slightest. How Coach Fred Walker subsequently brought 58‑year old Cardiff to campus shortly after Fred was appointed head football coach in 1936, is unknown. It would not be surprising for Walker to have been aware of Cardiff as part of the Sunday party given the evangelist's prominence in the Chicago area where Walker lived.

This was a man whose first impression could be startling on campus. He walked with a rolling gait that youngsters thought the old timer was inebriated. Dressed in a suit with a necktie and a handkerchief in the upper left pocket, usually wearing a fedora, years later they realized that, in the boxing vernacular, Jack was slightly "punch drunk" from his years in the ring. But that was not the Cardiff that students and colleagues got to know.

The Wheaton Record (Nov. 4, 1936) identifies Cardiff as assistant football coach and trainer announcing that he will tell his life story "From Prize Ring to Pulpit" before the League of Evangelical Students in Lower Pierce Chapel the following week. The article gives further hints on his earlier life, providing you take it with the proverbial grain of salt. But, there's no doubt that Cardiff lived his faith in plain sight. Another 1937 Record blurb reported that Cardiff leads a weekly prayer meeting on Wednesday evenings at Brewer's House, 321 E. Union. Persons around campus in those years still have vivid memories of Cardiff.

In 1945 he moved to Knightstown, Indiana where he lived until his death October 29, 1951. When "Doc" died the Warsaw Times Union identified him as Rev. J.C. Cardiff, aged 73, former Winona Lake resident in failing health for several years. He had been living with his daughter L.L. Diamond in Knightstown, IN where he died. The obit says he was a retired Presbyterian minister who also was a member of Billy Sunday's evangelistic party

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