The world of track and field lost a pioneering and vital figure in Fred Thompson last Tuesday (Jan. 22). The former New York state assistant attorney and high school track star left a promising legal career to help young Black girls and women achieve their track goals by establishing the Colgate Women’s Games.
Thompson was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1935, attending City College where he earned a history degree before obtaining his law degree from St. John’s University. While working as a state assistant attorney, Thompson recognized the lack of opportunity on the track for young Black girls and started the Atoms Track Club in Bed-Stuy.
According to a report from the New York Daily News, the club generated not only a number of first-place track finishes, but also over 50 college graduates in its first 15 years in existence.
Training young girls in track while also pushing them academically became Thompson’s top passion, and he left the state attorney’s office to work alongside Colgate-Palmolive in 1974 to bring forth the Colgate Women’s Games. The following year, Thompson became the full-time director for the game and served in the role until 2014.
Along with the Games, Thompson also served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Track team at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. He trained gold medalist Diane Dixon who competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He also trained Cheryl Toussaint-Eason, who won silver at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and Grace Jackson-Small, who won silver at Seoul.
Fred Thompson was 85.
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