1924 : DeHart Hubbard, First African American to Win Olympic Championship

July 8, 2018 all-day

DeHart Hubbard photograph from Wikipedia

William DeHart Hubbard, University of Michigan broad jumper, leaped 24 feet, 5 1/2 inches in Paris, France, becoming the first Negro to win an Olympic championship in an individual event at the 1924 Paris Summer Games.  The following year, in Chicago, he jumped 25′ 10″ for a new world record and in 1926 tied the 100-yd dash world record (9.6 seconds).

William DeHart Hubbard photo

He graduated with honors from the University of Michigan in 1927, one of only 8 African-Americans out of a class of over 1400.  His track records include a three-time National Collegiate Athletic Association champion (1923 & 1925 outdoor long jump, 1925 100-yard dash) and seven-time Big Ten Conference champion in track and field (1923 & 1925 indoor 50-yard dash, 1923, 1924, & 1925 outdoor long jump, 1924 & 1925 outdoor 100-yard dash). His 1925 outdoor long jump of 25 feet 10 1⁄2 inches (7.89 m) stood as the Michigan Wolverines team record until 1980, and it still stands second. His 1925 jump of 25 feet 3 1⁄2 inches (7.71 m) stood as a Big Ten Championships record until Jesse Owens broke it on with what is now the current record of 26 feet 8 1⁄4 inches (8.13 m) in 1935.

Since before he entered college, Hubbard said, “I knew that I wanted to do something to help my race.” After winning his Olympic gold medal in the summer of 1924, he returned to Ann Arbor for his senior year. But he could not complete the field work in a social work course—he did not say why—and when he flunked the course, he left U-M before getting his degree. He had a young family and felt the need to earn a living. Success on the civil service exam in Cincinnati led to 15 years as an instructor in the city’s recreation department. After that came a long stint with the Federal Housing Authority and a finale as a housing consultant.

He retired in 1969. He died in Cleveland in 1976. Hubbard was posthumously inducted into the University of Michigan Hall of Honor in 1979; he was part of the second class inducted into the Hall of Honor. In addition to participating in track and field events, Hubbard also was an avid bowler. He served as the president of the National Bowling Association during the 1950s. He also founded the Cincinnati Tigers, a professional baseball team, which played in the Negro American League. In 1957, Hubbard was elected to the National Track Hall of Fame.

Sources :

Jet Magazine, July 2, 1953.

William DeHart Hubbard wikipedia entry.

James Tobin, Lonely As Hell, University of Michigan Heritage Project which relates a number of stories about early African American Athletes at the University of Michigan.

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