About The Judoka
W.D. Norwood Jr
W.D. (Bill) Norwood, Jr., was born in Paris, Texas in 1929 at the beginning of the Great Depression, and raised in the small Southeast Texas town of Beaumont during the peak of the Texas oil boom which started just a few miles away at the Spindletop Ranch. His father was the proprietor of a small but successful office supply store, the Beaumont Typewriter and Supply Company, and his mother was a schoolteacher. Raised in the Southern Baptist Church, Norwood entered Baylor University at age 16 to study English literature and theology with the intention of preparing for the ministry. After graduation, with the U.S. engaged in military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, he delayed entering seminary in order to enlist in the United States Navy. While in route to fight in that conflict as a Communications Officer aboard the Naval Destroyer U.S.S. Brinkley Bass, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed, effectively ending active hostilities, and the Brinkley Bass was diverted to Tokyo, Japan. His time in Japan was to greatly alter the course of his life, providing as it did his first sustained exposure to the cultural traditions of the Far East. He later attended naval flight school in San Diego, California, prior to honorable discharge at the rank of Lieutenant.
Following his discharge from the Navy, Norwood entered seminary in Berkeley, California, but soon discovered that his theological beliefs were evolving and, being unwilling to tie his livelihood to a particular set of beliefs, he dropped out of seminary and returned to Beaumont, Texas. While working for his father as a typewriter repairman, he married and began study for a Master’s Degree in English literature at Lamar University with the financial aid of the GI Bill. After completing a Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Texas at Austin, he would go on to teach and pursue scholarly research at Southwest Texas State University, Angelo State University, and the University of Southern Mississippi as he advanced through the academic ranks.
In the early 1970s, while Chair of English at the University of Southern Mississippi, Dr. Norwood emerged as an outspoken opponent of the university’s effort to resist racial integration, and his stance on this issue led to his separation from the university (for a book-length account of this dark period in the history of the university, and Norwood’s role in the controversies that ensued, see Exit 13: Oppression and Racism in Academia (1982), by Monte Piliawsky). During an extended legal battle with the University of Southern Mississippi that centered on the issue of academic freedom, Dr. Norwood was briefly Dean of Humanities at New College of California, in San Francisco, but soon after left academia, moved to Houston, Texas, and opened a small business. For the next nine years, Dr. Norwood was the proprietor of Norwood Stationers, later the Norwood Office Products Company, before gradually returning to the activity he enjoyed the most, teaching. At the time of his death, in 1998, Dr. Norwood taught English literature at Tomball College, outside of Houston, Texas. Prior to joining the Tomball faculty, he had taught as an adjunct there, as well as at the University of Houston, Prairie View A & M, and Houston Baptist University.
Early in his career, while teaching at San Angelo State University, a routine traffic stop would lead to a life-long friendship with then San Angelo Police Sargent John Daring, a judoka who taught the fighting art in his spare time. This chance encounter began his study of Judo, an interest that would continue to occupy him throughout his life. At the time of his death he was revising a work entitled Laffite’s Ghostexploring the idea of moral piracy, with courage, love, and a certain degree of justifiable rapaciousness as central to his image of a full life.
Copyright: The Judoka 2023