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Williams in Berlin
Archie Williams was born on this date in 1915. He was a Black athlete and teacher.
Born in Oakland, CA, Williams attended San Mateo Junior College (now College of San Mateo). His track coach, Dr. Oliver Byrd, was instrumental in preparing him for future achievements. Soon Williams transferred to the University of California-Berkeley to become a mechanical engineer. He continued to run track.
In 1936, while still in college, Williams kept lowering his track times and reached his peak speed at the NCAA championships, setting a world 400-meter record of 46.1. His time was set in the preliminaries and he also prevailed in the final for a 47.0 victory. He followed that up with a first in the Olympic Trials, then went to Berlin and won the Olympic gold medal in the 400. A serious leg injury ended his running career a year later but he became a commercial pilot. During World War II, Williams was a pilot in the Air Force and retired from the military 22 years later as a lieutenant colonel.
A flight instructor while in the Air Force, Williams remained in education following his military retirement and taught mathematics and computers in California high schools. Williams was a Drake teacher for 21 years until his retirement at age 72. His love for teaching and helping students was legendary. Archie Williams died on June 24, 1993 at age 78.
The Encyclopedia Britannica, Fifteenth Edition.
Copyright 1996 Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.