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date: 05 August 2020

Woodruff, John locked

(5 July 1915–30 Oct. 2007), track and field athlete, military officer, and public administrator,
  • 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 ...

A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.

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