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Abbott, Cleveland (09 December 1892–14 April 1955), Tuskegee Institute educator, administrator, and athletic coach, was born in Yankton, South Dakota, one of seven children of Mollie Brown and Elbert B. Abbott. The family moved to Watertown, South Dakota, during Abbott’s childhood. Early on he excelled at sports, earning sixteen varsity letters at Watertown High School in football, basketball, track and field, and baseball. His family was among a small percentage of black residents of South Dakota in the early twentieth century....

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Kiphuth, Robert John Herman (17 November 1890–07 January 1967), swimming coach and athletic director, was born in Tonawanda, New York, the son of John Kiphuth, a mill hand, and Mary Benin. After graduating from Tonawanda High School in 1909, he became physical education director at the Tonawanda Young Men’s Christian Association. He studied physical education at Harvard in the summer of 1912....

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James Naismith. Photograph of an oil painting by Lon Keller, 1941. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115891).

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Naismith, James (06 November 1861–28 November 1939), inventor of basketball, was born in Almonte, Ontario, the son of John Naismith, a lumberman and carpenter, and Margaret Young. In 1870 both of Naismith’s parents died in a typhoid epidemic, leaving him to be raised by a religiously strict grandmother and then by a bachelor uncle. His schooling was interrupted by five years’ work in a logging camp, but in 1883 he entered McGill University, intending to study for the ministry. After receiving his A.B. in 1887, he studied theology for three years at a Presbyterian seminary affiliated with McGill; during his last year he directed undergraduate gymnastics classes. Having excelled athletically in school, he decided that rather than become a clergyman he could do good more effectively by combining sport and religion in the teaching and promotion of physical education. In 1890 he enrolled in a two-year course for Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) physical directors at a new training college in Springfield, Massachusetts....

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Orton, George Washington (10 January 1873–26 June 1958), athlete, coach, and educator, was born in Stratbury, Ontario, Canada, the son of Oliver Henry Orton and Mary Ann Irvine. Although crippled by a childhood accident, he restored his ambulatory ability through exercise, especially running. Reminiscing about his origins as a runner, Orton said that many boys “beat me in the dashes, but as the route became long, I killed off my adherents.” Recognizing that distance running was his “forte,” he practiced regularly and developed into one of the premier athletes of the late nineteenth century....

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Pilates, Joseph Hubertus (1880–09 October 1967), physical trainer, was born near Düsseldorf, Germany. His exact date of birth and the full names of his parents are unknown. His father, a champion gymnast, was Greek; his mother, who was German, worked as a naturopath. The family name, of Greek origin, is pronounced “Puh- ...

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Ruble, Olan G. (17 February 1906–11 November 1982), professor of physical education and women's basketball coach, professor of physical education and women’s basketball coach, was born Olan Guy Ruble near Chariton in Lucas County, Iowa, the son of Lon S. Ruble and Gertrude Curtis, farmers. Ruble attended a rural elementary school. Following graduation from Norwood High School in 1923, he earned a B.A. from Simpson College in 1928 and a master’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1937. In 1930 he married Marguerite O’Neall, with whom he would have one child....

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Walsh, David Henry (05 October 1889–02 June 1975), educator, coach, and basketball official, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the son of Samuel Walsh, a city laborer, and Catharine (maiden name unknown). As a youngster Walsh played basketball and baseball with neighborhood playmates. He took sport seriously and developed a strong competitiveness. At Hoboken High School, from which he graduated in 1907, the 5′ 8″, 180-pound Welsh lettered four years in both sports....