Attending the Olympic Games in London over the weekend was Harrison Dillard (a.k.a. “Bones), a 1948 black Olympic Gold Medalist. Dillard still holds the record of being the only man to win titles in both sprinting and hurdling events. It was because of Dillard’s close Olympic finish in the men’s 100-meter event that the “Photo Finish” was developed to determine the winner during track competitions.
A former Buffalo Soldier of the 92nd infantry, Dillard continued to run track in the army, and qualified for the 1948 games. He carried admiration for his colleague Jesse Owens, who shared a high school alma mater with Dillard (East Technical High School in Cleveland, Ohio). He joined the other athletes in London that year, right after the war, lodging in old army barracks and eating rationed food flown in from the U.S. The city was still in a bit of ruins and the track was made from red brick rubble left after bombings.
On the day of the race, Dillard weighed only 148 lbs, thus giving way to his nickname of “Bones.” After a false start, Dillard, the underdog pick questioned for third place, took first place next to American runner Barney Ewell who finished with the silver medal.
Like many black athletes in the games, Dillard was treated with the same pre-civil rights discrimination he was subjected to prior to winning the gold.
Four years later, Dillard competed in the Helsinki games and won the gold in the 110 meter hurdle event. It would be his last Olympics after he missed qualifications for the 1956 games.
Dillard went on to work in public relations for the Cleveland Indians and as a host on Cleveland’s radio talk show featured on WERE.
The history of Harrison Dillard is told in his autobiography, "Bones: The Life and Times of Harrison Dillard by Harrison Dillard with Michael McIntosh."