John Baxter Taylor, Jr. His name is not exactly a household name, but he has an important first in Olympic history. He ran the third leg (the 400 m leg) of the distance medley relay for the United States team, helping the team win the gold medal in the event at the 1908 London Olympics. So what makes Taylor special? He was the first African American gold medalist, helping set the stage for later African American medalists, such as Jesse Owens in 1936.
As a side note, the distance medley is the oddest of the track and field relays. Unlike other relays, each leg of the medleya different length. There is one 400 m leg (1 lap), one 800 m leg (2 laps), 1200 m leg (3 laps), and one 1600 m leg (4 laps). Because of this, it requires both sprinters and long distance runners.
Here is a portrait of Taylor, who tragically died at the age of 26 of typhoid fever in December of 1908, less than 5 months after his medal winning run. I’m sorry, but the picture is as big as I can get it. Click on it to download it.
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