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Mon, 09.30.1940

Harry Jerome, Track Sprinter born

Harry Jerome

*Harry Jerome was born on this date in 1940.  He was a Black Canadian Olympic athlete and businessman. 

Born Henry Winston Jerome in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, one of five children to Harry Sr., his wife Elsie.  In the 1950s Jerome and his family eventually moved to North Vancouver where they were the only Black people in their neighborhood.  As his athletic legend began to grow, Jerome chose to avoid the limelight and went on to set the standard as the world's fastest man (at the time) with records in the 100 meters, 100-yard dash, and indoor 60 meters. He also helped to establish a world record in the 4 x 100-meter relay.

Throughout his athletic career, Jerome received numerous accolades at the University of Oregon and represented Canada at two Pan American Games twice at the Commonwealth and he would represent Canada on three occasions at the Olympics.  At the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia, Jerome suffered a career threatening injury, completely severing his left quadriceps muscle; most orthopedic surgeons said that he would never run again.  Months of determination, physiotherapy, and courage set the stage for what would later be known as "the greatest comeback." In 1964, Jerome returned to track and field's largest stage, the Tokyo Olympics. Bearing a 30-centimetre scar on his left thigh, Jerome captured bronze in the 100 meters. 

He followed his Olympic showing with gold medal performances at both the Pan American and Commonwealth Games. At the University of Oregon, he coupled his athletic achievements with scholastic success, earning both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Science.  Despite his athletic successes, Jerome was always conscious of the challenges facing Black Canadians. 

He also used his athletic notoriety into opportunities for others, "using his fame and contacts he made in the sports world to get equipment for young athletes who could not afford them." Jerome also did extensive work in an effort to create opportunities for Blacks beyond sports. He was a vocal opponent of the misrepresentation of Black Canadians in Canadian television, asking that licenses be suspended "if stations could not justify neither having Blacks as on-air personalities nor airing stories about the [African Canadian] community." 

He fought to remove wage discrimination barriers against Blacks, and tried to improve the mainstream's perception of the African Canadian community - in one instance, he wrote to the major department stores and questioning the lack of Black models in their catalogues and as clerks in their stores. Despite his stature in the greater community, Jerome never forgot about his own upbringing or his role in bringing about change. 

After his retirement from competition in 1968, Jerome worked with the Federal Ministry of Sport.  He designed a series of cartoon manuals for coaching instructions and game rules for children and created the Premier Sports Program for use in schools in British Columbia. Jerome also introduced weight training for sprinters. He was named British Columbia's Athlete of the Century, and, in 1971, received the Order of Canada award.

Harry Jerome died on December 7, 1982.  Despite his untimely passing, he left a considerable legacy that is a source of pride for all Canadians. In 1988, a statue was erected in his honor along the sea wall of Vancouver's Stanley Park, and both the University of Oregon and province of British Columbia bear recreational facilities in his name as a testament to his greatness.  The premier Canadian track athlete of his time, Jerome’s athletic successes was partnered with scholastic excellence and social consciousness. 

Reference:

BC Black History.ca

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