Meet William DeHart Hubbard, the first black athlete to win an Olympic gold medal in 1924

Stephen Nartey March 08, 2023
William DeHart Hubbard/Photo credit: USATF

William DeHart Hubbard was a colossus on the track, outpacing his contenders at an unprecedented speed. This attribute was evident during his school days; no colleague was able to beat him in a race until he completed his eighth grade. He was simply the fastest and gained quite a reputation around his ability in the local community.

Recognized as a local champion in his community, it wasn’t surprising when he became the first black athlete to win an individual Olympic gold medal in the long jump at the 1924 Paris Games. His versatility drew his coaches to the field in the triple jump in 1924 for the U.S. and again in the long jump at the 1928 Olympics.

Before gaining national prominence, he began showing promising capabilities to step on the big stage. He won the NCAA Championships in the long jump in 1923 while at the University of Michigan. According to USA track and field, he set a world record of 7.89/25-10.75 on a later event in the long jump in 1925. From 1922 to 1927, he won six straight titles for the AAU long jump and was AAU triple jump champion in 1922 and 1923.

Born on November 25, 1903, in Walnut Hills, William was the first of eight children. His parents chose his middle name to honor a Principal of the local community school, Andrew DeHart. During his career, he fell even more in love with his middle name and dropped his maiden name, requesting to be called DeHart. From the local community school to Walnut Hills High School, William was the fastest student among his peers.

When he graduated from college, he was appointed as the supervisor of the Department of Colored Work for the Cincinnati Public Recreation Commission and served in that position until 1941. He later moved on to take a job with Valley Homes as a manager. In 1942, he decided to join the Federal Housing Authority as its race relations adviser.

William was not only excited about track and field events but also took interest in bowling, and was appointed as the president of the National Bowling Association during the 1950s. In expanding the frontiers of African Americans in sports, he established the Cincinnati Tigers, a professional baseball team, to give black players an opportunity to play in the Negro American League. He later retired from sports in 1969 and passed away in 1976 in Cleveland. William was posthumously inducted into the University of Michigan Hall of Honor in 1979.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: March 9, 2023


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