Herb Douglas, Olympic Medalist Inspired by Jesse Owens, Dies at 101

Herb Douglas, an Olympic medalist who was impressed as a youth by Jesse Owens, emulated him as a observe and area star after which honored his reminiscence by creating a global sports activities award in Owens’s title, died on Saturday. He was 101 and believed to be the oldest dwelling Olympic medalist within the United States.

The University of Pittsburgh introduced his dying however didn’t say the place he died. Douglas was a graduate of the college and had served on its board of trustees.

Douglas was 14 when he met Owens in September 1936, quickly after Owens received 4 gold medals at the Berlin Olympics, shattering, as a Black man, Hitler’s hopes of utilizing the Games as a showcase for Aryan supremacy. Owens was talking at a college in Pittsburgh, the place Douglas lived. Douglas’s mom, Ilessa May France Douglas, had taken him to the occasion.

“When Jesse was leaving the auditorium,” Douglas recalled, “I used to be standing close to the door. I advised him that I ran observe in junior highschool, did 21 ft 8 inches within the lengthy soar, ran 100 yards in 10.4 and high-jumped 6 ft. He advised me that was higher than he did at my age, and ‘sustain the great work.’”

Douglas did. At the subsequent Summer Games, in London in 1948 — the 1940 and 1944 Olympics had been canceled due to World War II — he received the bronze medal within the broad soar, now generally known as the lengthy soar, clearing 24 ft 9 inches. (Willie Steele, one other American, received with 25 ft 8 inches.)

When Douglas’s profession as a gross sales supervisor and govt within the beer and liquor industries started, he usually traveled by Chicago, the place Owens lived, and would phone Owens.

“We talked each week for 20 years till he died in 1980,” Douglas stated. “I felt I ought to do one thing to memorialize his profession. I all the time tried to mimic him. He was a giving man.”

In 1980, Douglas based the International Amateur Athletic Association, which till 2001 staged an annual black-tie dinner to profit the Jesse Owens Foundation and the United States Olympic Committee. Douglas was the affiliation’s first president and later president emeritus.

Each yr, the affiliation presents its showpiece, the Jesse Owens International Trophy Award, for athletic excellence and humanitarianism. The winners have included the lengthy jumper (*101*) Lewis, the hurdler Edwin Moses, the sprinters Michael Johnson and Florence Griffith Joyner, the middle-distance runner Mary Decker Slaney, the diver Greg Louganis and the speedskater Eric Heiden — all gold medal-winning Olympians.

In 1993, Douglas added a Jesse Owens Global Award for Peace, introduced each two years to a world chief with a sports activities background. Among the winners had been Nelson Mandela; Kofi Annan, the previous secretary basic of the United Nations; Juan Antonio Samaranch, the previous head of the International Olympic Committee; and the cable tv pioneer Ted Turner.

The awards and dinners continued into the early 2000s, and Douglas was pleased with their contribution to racial understanding. At the ceremony in 1995, Douglas recalled, “Jesse used to say, ‘We all got here right here on completely different boats, but when all of us do not row collectively, America will sink.’ I’m going to do all I can to maintain it afloat.”

Herbert Paul Douglas Jr. was born on March 9, 1922, in Pittsburgh and was raised there. His father ran an vehicle restore enterprise. Herb Jr. graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh and attended Xavier University of Louisiana earlier than transferring to the University of Pittsburgh on a scholarship as a soccer halfback. He and Jimmy Joe Robinson had been the group’s first African American gamers.

“I do not imply to be conceited,” Douglas as soon as stated, “however nobody might cowl me after I went out for a cross. The solely downside was we did not have a quarterback to get me the ball.”

Douglas, who graduated with a bachelor’s diploma in bodily training in 1948, described school as an onerous place for Black athletes at the time.

“We had been harassed on campus,” he stated. “We had been undoubtedly known as derogatory names by gamers on opposing groups. I performed one yr for Clark Shaughnessy. The subsequent yr, Wes Fesler was the coach. He advised me to overlook soccer. He stated I had a future in observe, so I caught with observe.”

He earned a grasp’s diploma in training from the college in 1950.

He is survived by his spouse, Minerva (Brice) Douglas; his daughter, Barbara Ralston; 4 grandchildren; and a number of other great-grandchildren. His son, Herbert P. Douglas III, died final yr.

In the Fifties and Nineteen Sixties, Douglas labored in advertising as a salesman and govt for the Pabst Brewing Company. He then joined Schieffelin & Company, later Schieffelin & Somerset Company, which imported wine, Champagne and brandy. When he retired in 1987, he was vice chairman for city market growth. He remained as a guide till 1993.

In his later years, he additionally served as govt producer of “The Renaissance Period of the African American in Sports,” a 2014 documentary movie in regards to the Black athletes at the 1936 Olympics.

When Douglas received his Olympic medal, the primary by a Pittsburgh native, he gave it to his mom. Almost day by day, she took it from its place on her living-room wall and wore it, hoping individuals would ask about it. They did.

When she died in 1996, he positioned the medal in her coffin.

Frank Litsky, a longtime sportswriter for The Times, died in 2018. Alex Traub contributed reporting.

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