Monday, January 5, 2015

V. 5 No. 1 Howard Drew, Unluckiest Man in Stockholm

Howard Drew, a man all but forgotten by time, was the first black American to represent the US at an Olympic games. Drew was still in high school in Springfield, MA in 1912.  It was another twelve years until the next black American, DeHart Hubbard of Cincinniati, OH and U. of Michigan would represent the US while winning the broad jump in the 1924 games.
Drew also played on the US Baseball team in Stockholm with
Jim Thorpe.  Drew is on left of back row next to Thorpe.
Unlike Hubbard,  Howard Drew did not win his event.  In fact he did not even run the finals due to a leg injury that occurred in the semis.   Drew was one of nine, yes nine Americans entered in the 100 meters in Stockholm.  Selection for the team was rather subjective in those days.  Some were chosen on the condition that they pay their own way to the games while others more fortunate had expenses covered.  Howard Drew was one of the favorites to win the 100 and 200 based on performances coming into the games.  Drew was still a high school senior at age 22 when he represented the US.  He had dropped out of school for almost six years to help support his family and eventually married and had two children before going to Stockholm.  In fact he could only attend the games after a fundraising was done to collect money to feed the family in his absence.  So he came home from the games, his dreams unfulfilled.   Ralph Craig won both sprints for the Americans.  He would go on to win the 200 as well.  In the 100 there were 8 false starts with Craig running the full distance twice rather than believing the call back gun.  There is some conjecture as to whether Howard actually went to the line for the finals.  One story says he did not, another story says he went to the line, but when it was clear he could not run he withdrew.

 But this was not the end of Howard Drew's incredible running  and academic careers.  He would attend the University of Southern California where he won several national titles, set collegiate and world records in the 100 yards, (9.6 sec.), but with the Berlin Olympics of 1916 cancelled because of WWI, there was no second chance for international laurels.  Drew served in the Quartermaster Corps in France but did not compete in the 1919 Inter-Allies competion or Pershing Games in Europe.   Charley Paddock would establish himself there as a 19 year old in Vincennes, France winning the 100m in 10.8 and the 200 in 21.6.   Drew would finish up at USC and then go on to law school at Drake University.  He competed indoors until 1920.  After law school he  would return to the East Coast and be called to the bar in Connecticut and Ohio.  He  eventually became state Attorney for Connecticut and then the first black judge in the state.
Drew winning his heat in Stockholm, the last
step he would compete in the Olympics

Pictures were taken from the french book on the history of track and field  La fabuleuse histoire d'Athletisme, by Robert Pariente,  1957.  This amazing over 1000 page book comes out every once in awhile with updates.  Photos are attributed to Giulano Bevilacqua, Jacques Boisleme, Walley Brown, Fionnbar Callanan, Don Chadez, Rich Clarkson, Tony Duffy, Fred Joch, Roger Krieger, E.L. Lacey, Andre Lecoq, Robert Legros, John Lovesey, Muhlberger, L.B. Nilsson, Peter Probst, Roger Rochard, Scheiwiller, Heinz Schlundt, Stournaras, Mike Street, Steve Sutton, and Werek as well as Presse-Sport, Agence Presse France, Associated Press, Bild service, Colorsport, Gamma, Intercontinentale, Keystone, Pressen's Bild, Schirner, Sven Simon, Track and Field News, United Press, and US Information Service.  The book itself was a gift from my friend Jerry McFadden.
Thanks to Phil Scott for bringing this story to our attention.  You can read a more detailed description of Howard Drew's remarkable life at

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