Wentworth Military Academy History

Educated community leaders since 1880.

Times change, but the fundamentals of character are timeless. Wentworth Military Academy, located in Lexington, Missouri, taught those fundamentals for more than 130 years. Through good times and bad, in war and in peace, we prepared thousands of high school and college students to exercise leadership in business, politics, and the military.

Wentworth is the oldest military academy west of the Mississippi River.

At the time of Wentworth’s founding in 1880, Lexington, Missouri was known as “the Athens of the West” for its long tradition of educational excellence. Lexington lies in western Missouri on the banks of the Missouri River, about 50 miles east of Kansas City, Missouri.

Wentworth built a national reputation for excellence in military education under the leadership of founding president Sandford Sellers and commandant David Fleet. A graduate of the distinguished Virginia Military Institute, Captain Fleet instilled the values of duty, honor, integrity, and academic rigor that have guided Wentworth Military Academy throughout its history.

Graduates of Wentworth’s high school program and college program served the United States with distinction all over the world, in every conflict since the Spanish-American War. Over the years Wentworth Military Academy educated numerous future generals, including a member of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Two Wentworth alumni received the Medal of Honor.

Wentworth graduates had a distinguished record of service and achievement.

For a small Missouri military academy, Wentworth produced a surprisingly long list of noteworthy alumni. Our graduates have risen to prominence in Missouri and nationally, achieving greatness in many different fields.

Wentworth Military Academy’s most well-known graduates include:

Military service

  • Gen. William Hoge — Decorated World War II commander and highway builder
  • Gen. Mark Welsh — 20th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force
  • Lt. Gen. Leroy Lutes — Key Eisenhower aide during World War II


  • James “Bud” Walton — Co-founder of Wal-mart
  • Eddie Chiles — oil/gas exploration entrepreneur, former owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team
  • William Schwartz, laser optics industry pioneer

Arts and Media

  • Robert Altman — Oscar-winning director of M*A*S*H, Nashville, Short Cuts, and other hits
  • Marlin Perkins — Renowned zoologist and award-winning TV host of Wild Kingdom
  • Paul Henderson — Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist


  • George Rody — Pioneering college basketball coach at Kansas, Oklahoma State
  • Bill Corum — National radio broadcaster, president of Churchill Downs
  • Ben Jones — Thoroughbred trainer, six-time Kentucky Derby winner