LeRoy Walker: America's first black Olympic coach

 

LeRoy Walker, who died on 30 April aged 93, was the first African-American to lead the US Olympic Committee and the first black man to coach an American Olympic team. The grandson of slaves raised in the segregated South before he moved to Harlem, Walker led the US Olympic Committee from 1992 to 1996, both shepherding the summer Games staged in Atlanta and leading the group when the 2002 Winter Olympics were awarded to Salt Lake City.

The Atlanta Games were widely panned round the world, and Walker warned his countrymen that the US was not likely to host another games for a long time after Salt Lake City. He repeated his warnings after a bribery scandal threatened to derail the 2002 Winter Games, and so far, his prediction has been true.

But Walker still loved the Olympics, especially track and field. He coached Olympic teams from Ethiopia, Israel, Jamaica, Kenya and Trinidad & Tobago before his home country gave him a chance to be the first black head coach of a US Olympic team when he led the track squad to Montreal in 1976. The team brought home 22 medals, including gold in the long jump, discus, decathlon, 400 metres hurdles and both men's relays.

The current US Olympic Committee chairman, Scott Blackmun, said that Walker's impact on the US Olympic movement, and track and field ,will be felt for generations to come.

"We join the entire Olympic family in remembering and appreciating the vast contributions he made to the worldwide Olympic movement," Blackmun said. "He devoted himself to the betterment of sport and we were fortunate to have called him our president."

Walker's love for athletics came accidentally. After excelling in American football, basketball and track and field at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, Walker was hired to coach football and basketball at North Carolina Central University. He instituted a track programme during those sports' close seasons, eventually deciding that coaching track was what he was meant to do.

At the university, Walker coached 40 national champions and 12 Olympians. But he did not merely concentrate on athletics. He earned a doctorate from New York University in 1957 and, in 1983, he was named chancellor at North Carolina Central. But even with all the accolades, Walker still wanted to be called "coach".

"When you call me that, it means you're my friend," he said. "That means you've known me for a long time. As coaches, we're in the community somehow. So I like the word 'coach'. It gives a different connotation than a PhD."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot