McLendon was born in Hiawatha, KS and studied at the University of Kansas where he was a student of the game under Dr. James Naismith in the 1930s. Because the KU varsity did not accept African American players at the time, McLendon was unable to suit up and play for the school. He coached high school and college basketball. His collegiate coaching included North Carolina College, The Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) and Tennessee A & I (now Tennessee State University). McLendon led Tennessee A & I to three consecutive NAIA championships making him the first coach to ever win three consecutive national titles. At Cleveland State University he was the first African American to ever coach at a predominantly white university. He later became the first African American coach in professional sports with the 1961 Cleveland Pipers. He was known as the architect of the "four corner" offense. McLendon was a life-long champion of diversity in education and athletics. In 2007, Cleveland State University will debut the Cleveland State John McLendon Scholarship Series named in his honor.
Died October 8, 1999