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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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


Edward Morrow

Edward Orval Gourdin was born on August 10, 1897, in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Walter Holmes and Felicia Garvin Gourdin. As a child, Gourdin demonstrated such athletic and scholarly excellence that his family sacrificed and took him to Massachusetts to realize his potential. He prepared at Stanton and Cambridge Latin high schools for Harvard College and graduated in 1921 with a B.A. degree; he completed Harvard Law School in 1924 with an LL.B. degree. On May 10, 1923, he married Amalia Ponce of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who became the mother of their four children: Elizabeth, Ann Robinson, Amalia Lindal, and Edward O., Jr.

Gourdin gained fame as an athlete during his college and university career, passed the bar, practiced law in Boston, Massachusetts, and joined the National Guard in 1925. During World War II he served as lieutenant colonel and later ...


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 ...


SaFiya D. Hoskins

basketball player, was born David Maurice Robinson in Key West, Florida, the second child of Ambrose and Freda Robinson His father was a naval officer and his mother was a nurse Robinson s father was required to travel frequently The family moved to Virginia Beach Virginia when he was young and when his father retired from the navy they finally settled in Woodbridge Virginia Robinson was an excellent student and from the age of six attended schools for gifted children In junior high school he continued his exceptional scholarship and standing 5 feet 9 inches tall demonstrated extraordinary athleticism in many sports with the exception of basketball It was not until his senior year at Osbourn Park High School in Manassas Virginia that the then 6 foot 7 inch tall Robinson joined the basketball team He earned area and district honors in his first season Robinson achieved high ...


Olympic champion boxer, was born in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, to Hays Sanders, a municipal garbage worker, and Eva Sanders, a homemaker. Sanders, the oldest male child of the family, was mature and physically strong, even at an early age. He and his friends exercised vigorously as children, collecting coffee cans and then filling them with cement and connecting them to steel bars to make weight sets. As Sanders grew during his teen years, he continued working on his strength and speed, becoming a star athlete in football (he played wide receiver) and track and field (specializing in the four-hundred-meter run) at Jordan High School in Watts.

After high school Sanders attended a nearby junior college in Compton California At Compton Junior College he continued to excel in football as both a wide receiver and end With the urging of a local coach he ...


Jason Philip Miller

boxer, was born in the rough-and-tumble Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis, Missouri, to Leon and Kay Spinks. He was the oldest of seven children. It was not an easy upbringing. Violence in Spinks's neighborhood was endemic and after being mugged and bullied, he was given the nickname “Mess Over,” in reference to the opinion that he was an easy target. Home was little better. His father, an absentee who finally vanished when Spinks was ten, was often physically abusive to his children, once hanging Spinks from a nail and beating him. Spinks's mother taught Bible classes out of the family home. When he was fourteen Leon developed an interest in boxing—in no small part as a means of self-defense—and, along with his brother Michael, became a frequenter of the local gym.

Spinks dropped out of school in the tenth grade and joined the U S Marines with ...


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 ...