The grandson of slaves and youngest of 13 children, LeRoy T. Walker accomplished a number of firsts. He was the first member of his family to go to college, the first Black coach of a U.S. Olympic Team and the first Black president of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
“Dr. Walker’s significant impact will resonate for generations to come,” USOC then-president Scott Blackmun said after Walker passed away in 2012 at age 93. “He devoted himself to the betterment of sport.”
Walker played football and basketball and ran track at Benedict College, then earned a master’s degree from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in biomechanics from New York University. He later was hired to coach football and basketball and chair the physical education and recreation departments at what is now known as North Carolina Central University, and in the offseason started a track and field program.
Track had a special place in Walker’s life. At Central, he coached 11 athletes who won Olympic medals, including two-time gold medalist Lee Calhoun. Walker also coached Olympic teams from Israel, Ethiopia, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Kenya before finally coaching the U.S. Olympic Track Team in the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games, where American athletes captured 22 medals, including six gold medals.
Walker would go on to serve as North Carolina Central’s chancellor, became the president of Athletics Congress (now known as USA Track and Field) and worked as USOC treasurer from 1988 to 1992, helping prepare for the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games before becoming the organization’s president.