African American Olympians
Dr. Leroy Walker, right, head coach of the U.S. Olympic Track Team, gives some advice to 400 meter hurdle star Edwin Moses. Moses of Morehouse College in Atlanta, broke the American record in the event at the recent trials in Eugene, Oregon thereby winning a spot on the American team. Copyright Bettmann/Corbis / AP Images.
Although black athletes had become increasingly important to U.S. Summer Olympic success, it wasn't until 1976 that an African American coach was appointed to the national team. Given that track and field was the sport with the richest history of black Olympic participation, it was fitting that Dr. Leroy T. Walker was named the first black coach. Walker, who held a doctorate in biomechanics from New York University, had been an exceptionally successful track coach at North Carolina Central University. Since his tenure began in 1945, multiple NCCU track stars had gone on to earn gold medals at the 1956 (Melbourne), 1960, and 1972 (Munich) Games. In Walker's first Olympics as coach, the 1976 Games in Montreal, the track and field program won a combined 22 medals, including six golds from decathlete Bruce Jenner and hurdler Edwin Moses. Not done, Walker was appointed chairman of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) in 1992, making him the first black head of the organization. As chair, Walker was responsible for overseeing the planning and execution for the 1996 Games in Atlanta, which brought over 10,000 athletes to the United States.