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Rafer Johnson Biography

Standout Athlete, Marched Into Stadium, Chronology, Opening Ceremony Honoree Again, Contact Information, Awards And AccomplishmentsSELECTED WRITINGS BY JOHNSON:


American decathlete

Rafer Johnson's victory in the decathlon at the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome, Italy, earned him the title of "world's greatest athlete," but the track star never competed in another Olympiad again. Johnson was one of the outstanding college athletes of his day, breaking several track and field records and winning Sports Illustrated's "Sportsman of the Year" award while a student at the University of California at Los Angeles. At the opening ceremonies of the 1960 Rome Games, he carried the American flag at the front of the Olympic delegation, the first African American athlete ever chosen for the honor.


Johnson, Rafer, and Philip Goldberg. The Best That I Can Be. Garden City: Doubleday, 1998.

Sketch by Carol Brennan

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Famous Sports StarsTrack and Field