In 1992, Dr. Leroy Walker became the first black president of the U.S. Olympic Committee. At the time, he was 74 years old. Walker led the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1992 to 1996.
Born in Atlanta, Walker was the youngest of 13 children. His father died when he was nine years old and Walker was sent to live with a brother in Harlem, New York. He would attend Benedict College, where he was a star athlete and then to Columbia University where he earned his master’s degree. Walker then received a doctorate from New York University in 1957 and 1983.
Walker had served in many leading capacities of sports and education. He was Chancellor of North Carolina Central University, and President of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Prior to those positions, Walker was head coach of the 1976 U.S. Olympic men’s track and field team and president of the U.S. Track Federation; Walker coached Olympic track and field teams from Ethiopia, Israel, Jamaica, Kenya and Trinidad and Tobago before being chosen for the U.S. track team.
Under Walker’s direction, the U.S. teams brought home 22 medals, including gold in the long jump, discus, decathlon, 400-meter hurdles and both men’s relays.
Walker had a distinct reputation of wearing a rust-colored suede jacket when he intended to reprimand the athletes during practice. He simply wanted them to be more than they thought they could be.
Walker passed away Monday, April 23, 2012 at age 93 in his Durham, North Carolina home.