Dr. LeRoy Walker dies, the first African American to lead the U.S. Olympic Committee and first African American Olympic team head coach

April 24, 2012


Former USOC head Dr. LeRoy Walker dies
The Associated Press
The News and Observer
DURHAM — LeRoy Walker, the first African-American to lead the U.S. Olympic Committee and the first black man to coach an American Olympic team died Monday. He was 93.
Walker’s death was confirmed by Scarborough & Hargett Funeral home, but no cause of death was given.
The grandson of  enslaved Africans raised in the segregated South before he moved to Harlem, Walker led the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1992 to 1996, both shepherding the summer games played in Atlanta and leading the group when the 2002 Winter Olympics were awarded to Salt Lake City.
The Atlanta games were widely panned across the globe, and Walker warned his fellow countrymen the U.S. was not likely to host another games for a long time after Salt Lake City. He repeated his warnings after a bribery scandal threatened to derail the 2002 winter games, and so far, his prediction has been true.
But Walker still loved the Olympics, especially track and field. He coached Olympic teams from Ethiopia, Israel, Jamaica, Kenya and Trinidad & Tobago before his home country gave him a chance to be the first black head coach of a U.S. Olympic team when he led the track squad to Montreal in 1976.
That team brought home 22 medals, including gold in the long jump, discus, decathlon, 400-meter hurdles and both men’s relays.
Current U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Scott Blackmun said Walker’s impact on the U.S. Olympic movement and track and field will be felt for generations to come.
“We join the entire Olympic family in remembering and appreciating the vast contributions he made to the worldwide Olympic Movement throughout his 93 years of life,” Blackmun said. “He devoted himself to the betterment of sport and we were fortunate to have called him our president.”
Walker love for track came accidentally. After earning 11 letters in football, basketball and track and field from Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., Walker was hired to coach football and basketball at North Carolina Central University. He instituted a track program during the offseason of those sports, eventually deciding that coaching track was what he was meant to do.
At the university, Dr. Walker coached 40 national champions and 12 Olympians. But he just didn’t concentrate on athletics. Walker earned a doctorate from New York University in 1957, and in 1983, he was named chancellor at North Carolina Central University.
“My greatest enjoyment was my contributions to the students,” he said.
Even with all the accolades, Walker still wanted to be called “coach.”
“When you call me that, it means you’re my friend. That means you’ve known me for a long time. As coaches, we’re in the community somehow,” Walker said in a 1996 interview with The Associated Press. “So I like the word Coach. It gives a different connotation than a Ph.D. degree.”
Scarborough & Hargett Funeral home will be handling funeral arrangements.
Dr. LeRoy T. Walker
President Emeritus of the U.S. Olympic Committee
Chancellor Emeritus of North Carolina Central University
Born June 14, 1918, in Atlanta, Georgia. The grandson of enslaved Africans and the youngest of Willie and Mary Walker’s 13 children, Dr. LeRoy Walker, a well regarded athlete himself, went on to become one of the most successful track coaches in history.

Walker spent a portion of his youth in New York City’s Harlem.

In the 1930s LeRoy Walker attended Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina.
Walker graduated from Benedict College in 1940, and then earned a master’s from Columbia University in 1941.
In 1945 Walker became track coach at then North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University).
In 1957, Walker completed his doctorate in Exercise Physiology and Biomechanics at New York University.
From 1960 to 1972, Dr. Walker served as a coach or consultant for a number of foreign Olympic teams, before moving on to a three-year stint as chairman of the AAU men’s track and field committee.
In 1971 Walker would bring the Pan-Africa/USA games to Durham, NC.
At the 1976 summer Olympics in Montreal, Dr. Walker made history as the first African American head coach of the men’s track and field team. The United States team medaled in 19 different events, collecting a total of 6 golds.
He helped steer the 1987 U.S. Olympic Festival to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. 
Dr. Walker was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of in 1987.
In 1992 was named president of the United States Olympic Committee, the first African-American ever named to the post. The position was capped off four years later with the summer Olympics in Atlanta, where he led the 645-member U.S. delegation into the Centennial Olympic Stadium as part of the opening festivities.

Dr. Walker presided over the 1999 Special Olympic World Games in North Carolina.

Walker received the Olympic Order, the highest honor handed out by the International Olympic Committee, for his work with the Olympic Games. He has also earned 15 honorary degrees.

Source: 2012 A+E Networks
Video: A montage of athletes competing at the 1987 US Olympic Festival held in Raleigh-Durham, NC
These games preceeded the1988 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIV Olympiad held in Seoul, South Korea.



US Olympic Committee President LeRoy Walker presents International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch (R) with the official RSVP card for the US Olympic Team while on a tour of the Olympic Stadium as Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games President Billy Payne, left, looks on September 17, 1995, in Atlanta. DOUG COLLIER – AFP/Getty Images

William Porter Payne, right, president of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, arrives in Los Angeles in April from Athens, Greece, carrying the Olympic flame in a safety lantern. Los Angeles City Councilman John Ferrarro, left, and Dr. LeRoy Walker, center, head of the US Olympic Committee, greet him. HAL GARB – AFP/Getty Images

Dr LeRoy Walker, President of the USOC, addresses the delegates at the International Olympic Committee 105th session opening ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia -1996.

1996 Olympic Games -Atlanta

NC Department of Transportation Secretary E. Norris Tolson, left, congratulates Special Olympics President, LeRoy Walker, right, after the last of the new Special Olympic roadsigns were unveiled at the RDU Airport in 1999. –Corey Lowenstein- News & Observer


Olympic medalist John Carlos, President Emeritus of the U.S. Olympic Committee Dr. Leroy T. Walker, and St. Augustine’s College Track and Field coach George Williams. Williams, who also resides in Raleigh-Durham, was mentored by Dr. Walker and followed in Walker’s footsteps by building a dynasty in track and field and cross country at a university, this time it was at Saint Augustine’s University. Williams coached 32 Olympians, including 3 who won gold. Williams served as assistant coach of the 1996 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team in Atlanta and was the head coach of the 2004 Men’s Olympic Track and Field Team in Athens, Greece. –2004 NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

John Wesley Carlos was the bronze-medal winner in the 200 meters at the 1968 Summer Olympics and his black power salute on the podium with Tommie Smith caused much political controversy. He went on to equal the world record in the 100 yard dash and beat the 200 meters world record.

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