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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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Bennett, Lewis (1831–18 January 1896), distance runner, was born Hagasadoni at the Cattaragus Reservation in Erie County, New York. The exact date of his birth and his parents’ names are unknown. A Seneca Indian of the Snipe clan, he was given the English name Lewis Bennett. As a professional runner, he competed under the name “Deerfoot.”...

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Bowerman, Bill (19 February 1911–24 December 1999), track coach, was born William Jay Bowerman in Portland, Oregon, the son of Jay Bowerman, president of the Oregon state senate, and Lizzie Hoover Bowerman. The Bowermans were divorced in 1913 and the children were placed in the custody of their mother....

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Brundage, Avery (28 September 1887–08 May 1975), athlete, businessman, and sports administrator, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Charles Brundage, a stonecutter, and Amelia “Minnie” Lloyd. After a move to Chicago, Charles Brundage deserted his family, leaving the five-year-old Avery and his brother Chester to be reared by their mother. Thanks to some fairly affluent uncles, the Brundages endured genteel rather than desperate poverty. Brundage worked his way through the University of Illinois, earning a B.A. in engineering in 1909. In college and after, he was a dedicated and successful track-and-field athlete. His participation in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden, in the decathlon and pentathlon, was a defining experience. In an unpublished autobiography he wrote that his “conversion, along with many others, to [founder Pierre de] Coubertin’s religion, the Olympic Movement, was complete.” The choice of the word “religion” was deliberate. For Brundage, the Olympic Games were a utopian contrast to the sordid worlds of business and politics....

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Connolly, Harold (01 August 1931–18 August 2010), Olympic athlete, administrator, and teacher, was born Harold Vincent “Hal” Connolly, Jr., in Somerville, Massachusetts, to Margaret Connolly and Harold Connolly, Sr., working-class Irish Americans. He was raised in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston. Complications during his birth resulted in a fractured left arm and nerve damage. As a result of this initial trauma, and repeated fractures as a child, his left arm grew to be four and a half inches shorter than his right arm. Likewise, his left hand was two-thirds the size of his right. Despite these obstacles Connolly persevered in the world of sports....

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Cromwell, Dean Bartlett (20 September 1879–03 August 1962), track and field coach, was born in Turner, Oregon, the son of William Cromwell, the owner of a sawmill and a small ranch, and Emma (maiden name unknown). Following his father’s death in 1891, Cromwell, his mother, and four siblings moved to southern California, where Cromwell became a premier athlete while attending Occidental College Prep in Los Angeles. His athletic prowess at Occidental College won him recognition in 1901 as the Helms Athletic Foundation athlete of the year in southern California. At Occidental he played first base in baseball and right halfback in football. A versatile track performer, he ran the 50- and 100-yard dashes and the quarter mile. He also competed in the pole vault, high jump, shot put, and hammer throw as well as in bicycle racing. Following his college years, he represented the Los Angeles Young Men’s Christian Association in 1904 and 1905 at YMCA national meets, placing in the high jump, shot put, and hammer throw....

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Cunningham, Glenn V. (04 August 1909–10 March 1988), track and field athlete, was born in Atlanta, Kansas, the son of H. Clint Cunningham, a water well driller and odd-jobsman. His mother’s name is unknown. At age seven, Glenn and his thirteen-year-old brother Floyd were engulfed in a schoolhouse fire. Floyd received severe burns to his entire body and died days later. Glenn survived the fire but sustained near-crippling burns to his legs. After being bedridden for nearly six weeks, during which time doctors almost amputated his legs, Cunningham recovered his mobility through daily massage from his mother to restore the circulation to his badly scarred legs. Once he was able to walk again, he soon began running. As a result Cunningham increased his physical endurance and easily outran boys twice his age. A county mile-run champion at age thirteen, he excelled at the distance on the high school track team in Elkhart, Kansas. Cunningham reigned as the nation’s best high school miler in 1930, winning the event in the Kansas Relays (Interscholastic Division) in a national high school record of 4:31.4. He won the high school state championship in the mile and lowered the record to 4:28.4. As a final measure of his ability, Cunningham lowered the record to 4:24.7, winning the national interscholastic mile championship....

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Curtis, William Buckingham (17 January 1837–30 June 1900), champion amateur athlete and "father" of amateur athletics in America, champion amateur athlete and “father” of amateur athletics in America, was born in Salisbury, Vermont, the son of Henry Harvey Curtis, a Presbyterian minister and college president, and Elizabeth “Betsey” C. Deming. Betsey Curtis died from tuberculosis a year after Bill's birth, and by 1840 his father married Julia Ann Roberts. From 1841 to 1862, the year Bill's father died, the family moved for church assignments in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. This strong Christian home environment eventually influenced Curtis's philosophy of life and set the general pattern for his later efforts to “purify” sport....

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Clarence Harrison DeMar Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116340).

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DeMar, Clarence Harrison (07 June 1888–11 June 1958), marathon runner, was born in Maderia, Ohio, the son of George DeMar, a farmer, and Carol Abbott. DeMar attended elementary school in Madisonville, Ohio, before the death of his father required him to help support the family by selling goods made by his mother. At eight years of age he pushed a cart filled with the items, which included soap, thread, and sewing implements, walking 10 to 20 miles a day. When DeMar was 10 years old, his family moved to Warwick, Massachusetts, to live in a house owned by his mother’s relatives. Because his mother was unable to support him and his five younger siblings, the family split up; DeMar was sent to the Farm and Trades School on Thompsons Island in Boston Harbor. At age 16 DeMar left the school and went to South Hero, Vermont, where he worked for a fruit farmer and attended the Maple Lawn Academy. After graduating from the academy in 1908, he entered the University of Vermont. There he worked in the university print shop and as a delivery boy for the university experimental station. In the fall of 1909 DeMar quit school and returned to Melrose, Massachusetts, where he secured a job in a print shop to support his family....

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Babe Didrikson Competing in the first heat of the 80-meter hurdles, winning in a record-breaking 11.8 seconds, at the Los Angeles Olympics, 1932. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-113281).

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Didrikson, Babe (26 June 1914?–27 September 1956), athlete, was born Mildred Ella Didriksen in Port Arthur, Texas, the daughter of Ole Nickolene Didriksen, a ship’s carpenter and cabinetmaker, and Hannah Marie Olsen, an accomplished skater and skier. Didrikson herself was later to change the last syllable of the surname from - ...

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Drew, Howard Porter (28 June 1890–19 February 1957), track and field athlete, was born in Lexington, Virginia, the son of David Henry Drew and May E. Mackey. At age twenty-one, after working for several years in a railroad depot, he entered high school in Springfield, Massachusetts. By the time Drew had entered high school, however, he ranked high among the nation’s best sprinters. In 1910 and 1911 he won both the 100- and 220-yard dashes at the junior Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) track and field championships. Drew’s best times as a junior were 10.0 seconds for 100 yards and 21.8 seconds for 220 yards....

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Edmundson, Hec (03 August 1886–06 August 1964), college basketball and track coach, was born Clarence Sinclair Edmundson in Moscow, Idaho, the son of Thomas Sinclair Edmundson and Emma Jeannette Rowley. He acquired an unusual nickname as a boy. Running along dirt roads in the Palouse region of western Idaho, he was frequently heard to utter “Aw, heck!” in self-criticism of his training efforts. Thus Clarence became Hec, the name by which he was known throughout his life....

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Epstein, Charlotte (15 September 1884–26 August 1938), promoter of U.S. women’s swimming, was born in New York City to Moritz H. Epstein, who had emigrated from Germany around 1863, and Sara Epstein. Charlotte and her brother were brought up in the Jewish faith of both their parents. Educated at the Ethical Culture School, she became a court stenographer, but she soon focused her career on her swimming interests. She never married....

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Ewry, Ray (14 October 1873–29 September 1937), Olympic track-and-field champion, was born Raymond Clarence Ewry in Lafayette, Indiana, the son of George Ewry, a partner in a grocery store and bakery, and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Afflicted with polio at the age of ten, Ewry followed a program of exercises prescribed by his doctor and succeeded in overcoming his physical disabilities. Since there were no high school athletic programs at that time, Ewry played basketball for the Lafayette Young Men’s Christian Association team. Ewry enrolled at Purdue University in 1890 and competed in track and field for the first time at the Purdue field day on 22 May 1891, when he won the high kick. At this meet he decided to concentrate on the standing jumps. At 6′ 3″, agile and long-legged, he was well equipped for these events. He became a champion in the standing broad jump, standing high jump, and high kick, setting the college records in each of these events. From a standing position, he reached 62″ in the high jump, 10′ 6½″ in the broad jump, and 9′ 2″ in the high kick. He played end on the football team for one season, until a shoulder injury forced him to withdraw....

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Flanagan, John J. (09 January 1873–04 June 1938), track and field athlete and coach, was born of poor farming parents in Kilmallack, Limerick County, Ireland (his parents’ names are unknown). As a boy, Flanagan could run, jump, and throw heavy weights with success against anyone in the county, and this in a nation that had been a world leader for a century in such sporting activities....

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Florence Griffith-Joyner. Used by permission of Photo Kishimoto.

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Griffith-Joyner, Florence (21 December 1959–21 September 1998), track and field star, was born Delorez Florence Griffith in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Robert Griffith, an electrician, and Florence Griffith (maiden name unknown), seamstress. When “Dee Dee” (as she was nicknamed) was four, her parents divorced and she moved with her mother and siblings to a housing project in the Watts section of Los Angeles. She began running while in elementary school at meets sponsored by the Sugar Ray Robinson Youth Foundation, and by the age of fifteen she had won two consecutive Jesse Owens National Youth Games. As a member of an impoverished but disciplined family, Griffith learned from her grandmother how to style hair and fingernails, and she continued to excel in track and field at David Starr Jordan High School, from which she graduated in 1978....

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Gutterson, Albert Lovejoy (23 August 1887–07 April 1965), track and field athlete, was born in Andover, Vermont, the son of Charles Milton Gutterson, a farmer, and Elizabeth Lovejoy. Gutterson received his primary education in Simonsville, Vermont, and Peaseville, Vermont. In 1903 Gutterson’s father sold his farm and moved his family to Springfield, Vermont, in order for Albert to continue his secondary education. While attending Springfield High School, Gutterson participated in track and field and began to display his ability as a sprinter, hurdler, long jumper, high jumper, and discus thrower....