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Wed, 09.29.1909

Eddie Tolan, “The Midnight Express”

Eddie Tolan

Eddie Tolan was born on this date in 1909. He was a Black Track&Field sprinter.

Tolan was from Denver, Colo., and was that city and state champion in the 100- and 200-yard dashes. While attending high school in Detroit, he was often called The Midnight Express. At the University of Michigan, he attracted national attention in 1929 when he set a record in the 100-yard dash (9.5 seconds) and tied the record of 10.4 seconds in the 100-meter dash.

The 5 foot 7 inch Tolan, who raced with his glasses taped to his head, won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship in the 200- and 220-yard dashes and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) championship in the 100- and 220-yard events between 1929 and 1931.

He finished second to Ralph Metcalfe in the 100- and 200-meter dashes in the trials for the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.  In the games themselves, however, Tolan set an Olympic record by handily winning the 200-meter in 21.2 seconds, and he eked out a narrow photo-finish victory over Metcalfe in the 100-meter in 10.3 seconds, setting a world record.

Subsequently, Tolan had a brief career as a vaudeville performer with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and later became a schoolteacher. Edward Thomas Tolan was the first Black athlete to win two Olympic gold medals. In his track career Tolan won 300 races, losing only 7. He died Jan. 30, 1967 in Detroit, Michigan

USA Track & Field
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Indianapolis, IN 46225
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