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Paul T. Murray

long-distance runner and physical therapist, was born Theodore Corbitt near Dunbarton, South Carolina, to John Henry Corbitt, a farmer and railroad worker, and Alma Bing Corbitt, a seamstress and union official. Though small in stature, the young Corbitt helped on the family farm, plowing and picking crops, forging a work ethic that would become the trademark of his athletic career. While white children rode the bus, Corbitt walked the dusty roads back and forth to school. At age nine his family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he won his first races in school competitions. He graduated from Cincinnati's Woodward High School in 1938 and enrolled in University of Cincinnati that fall. There he joined the track and cross-country teams, trying every running event from 100 yards to two miles. He graduated in 1942 with a degree in Education Corbitt was drafted into the U S Army and ...

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was born William D. Davenport in Troy, Alabama. He was the oldest in a family of seven children. In 1952 his family moved to Warren, Ohio. One of the few African American students at Howland High School in Warren, Davenport recalled being “a loner with a sour attitude” until achieving success in athletics (Encyclopedia of Alabama). He competed in all sports, especially loved baseball, but found his niche in track and field. Initially a 100-yard-dash man, Davenport turned his attention to the 120-yard high hurdles during his junior year, an event in which he won the Howland Local School District title in 1960. As a senior he established a high school record of 14.2 seconds in the 120-yard high hurdles.

After graduating high school in 1961, Davenport enlisted in the United Sates Army. Stationed in Mainz, West Germany from 1961 to 1963 he became a ...

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Adam R. Hornbuckle

Born in Troy, Alabama, Willie D. Davenport was educated at Southern University. His specialty was the indoor 60-yard high hurdles race, which is not an Olympic event. In the 60-yard hurdles, he won the United States national title five times (1966, 1967, 1969–1971).

Davenport also attained success in the outdoor high hurdles event, which in the United States at that time was either 110 m or 120 yards, depending on the year. At the 1964 U.S. Olympic trials, Davenport, then a United States Army private, was the unexpected winner in the 110-meter hurdles race. Hampered by a thigh injury, he failed to qualify for the finals at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Davenport won the 120-yard hurdles event at the U.S. national track-and-field championships the next three years (1965–1967 and he earned a gold medal in the 110 meter hurdles at ...

Article

Richard Sobel

first African American Ivy League head coach, 1984 U.S. Olympic men's track-and-field team head coach, and president of USA Track & Field from 1992 to 1996, was born Lawrence Thomas Ellis in Englewood, New Jersey. With two older sisters, Virginia Robinson and Theresa Brisbane, Ellis grew up in the Bronx in New York City, on a street known for its gangs. His parents, Henry Ellis, a tailor, and Anna Wright Hart, a Macy's saleswoman and a child's nurse, separated during his youth and Ellis worked part-time jobs in order to help make ends meet. Ellis's mother and the late Rev. Edler Hawkins, a Presbyterian minister, were positive influences in his younger years. “Basically, I was a good kid,” he explained. “I joined the Boy Scouts. I played ball in the street, touch football (Alfano, New York Times, Apr. 1984 section 5 1 For ...

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Antje Daub

athlete, scholar, soldier, and judge, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, one of nine children of Walter Holmes Gourdin, a meat cutter and part Seminole Indian, and Felicia Nee, an African American woman who was a housekeeper. Little is known about his early school career, other than that he was valedictorian of his high school class in 1916. Although poor, Gourdin's parents recognized their son's talents and educational potential and, following his high school graduation, moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to further his career. There, Gourdin attended Cambridge High and Latin, which helped prepare him for the high academic demands of an Ivy League education.

By the time he enrolled in his freshman year at Harvard in 1917 Gourdin appears to have been a conscientious and responsible student To pay tuition he supported himself by working as a postal clerk He also became a ...

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Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born George Lawrence James in Mount Pleasant, New York, the son of Martha James; his father’s name is unrecorded. James began participating in track and field in seventh grade and continued at White Plains High School in White Plains, New York. Coached by Ed Kehe, he demonstrated all-around ability in the sport, especially in the 180-yard low hurdles, 330-yard intermediate hurdles, 220- and 440-yard dashes, and the triple jump. In 1966 James won the 180-yard low hurdles at the New York Public School State Championships and belonged to the 880-yard and mile-relay teams which established national high school records of 1:24.5 and 3:12.7 respectively.

After graduating high school in 1966, James entered Villanova University near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ineligible to compete as a freshman, he debuted as a sophomore indoors at the 1968 Millrose Games in New York City s Madison Square Garden James won the 500 yard ...

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Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born Archie Franklin Williams in Oakland, California, the oldest of three children of Wadsworth R. Williams and Lillian Wall Williams. His father worked at the United States mint and died in 1925; his mother worked as a housekeeper and cook. Educated in the Oakland public school system, Williams attended Cole and Peralto elementary schools, Claremont and Edison junior high schools, and University Senior High School. After graduating high school in 1933, Williams entered San Mateo Junior College, completed the two-year degree in one year, and transferred to the University of California Berkeley in 1934.

Beginning in high school Williams participated in track and field, primarily as a quarter-miler, competing in the 440-yard dash and the 4 × 440-yard relay. He began the 1936 track season at UCB with a personal best time of 49 7 seconds in the 440 At the Pacific Coast Conference Championship ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born in Fresno, California, the son of Idel McGee Williams. His father’s name is unrecorded. Randy Lavelle Williams played football and competed in the 100-yard and 220-yard dashes, 4 × 110-yard relay, long jump, and triple jump at Edison High School in Fresno. At the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships, he finished third in the long jump in 1969, second in 1970, and first in 1971. At the 1971 Golden West Invitational, Williams won the long jump in 25 feet 2½ inches (7.68 meters) and finished third in the triple jump at 49 feet 8½ inches (15.15 meters).

After graduating from Edison in 1971 Williams accepted an athletic scholarship to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles As a member of the track team he won the long jump at the Pacific Athletic Conference PAC 10 Championships the National Collegiate Athletic Association NCAA Championships ...

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Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, the second youngest of twelve children, some of whom had died in infancy, of Silas Edward Woodruff, a coal miner, and Sarah Henry Woodruff, a laundress. His parents, the children of former Virginia slaves, had migrated to Pennsylvania from Pulaski County, Virginia, where they had married in 1894. Born John Youie Woodruff, he was an avid reader as a child, impressing his second-grade teacher by finishing books several years beyond his reading comprehension level. At the age of sixteen he dropped out of Connellsville High School in the hope of finding work in the factories that had employed many of his white classmates. After being rejected by employers because of his race, Woodruff returned to school and later recalled the experience as the only time discrimination worked in his favor.

During his junior year at Connellsville High School Woodruff played football until his mother ...

Article

Chris Elzey

track coach, teacher, and administrator, was born Stanley Van Dorne Wright in Englewood, New Jersey, the son of Spencer Wright, a sanitation worker and truck driver, and Mildred (Prime) Wright, a seamstress and cook. Growing up in a northern city proved no shield from racism. In junior high and high school, Wright had little option but to follow a curriculum for black students that de-emphasized academics. His parents, however, taught him to value education.

Unfortunately, America's involvement in World War II interrupted his schooling. Soon after Pearl Harbor, Wright joined the Army Air Corps. However, he failed to complete pilot training, and his responsibilities at an airbase in Kansas consisted primarily of office tasks. While in the Air Corps, in late 1944, he married Hazel Mathes and they would have four children. In 1945 Wright was reassigned to an airbase in Massachusetts He ...