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Willie Davenport was born on this date in 1943. He was a Black athlete and military officer from Troy, AL.
An Army private in 1964, Davenport was the surprise winner in the 110-meter hurdles at the U. S. Olympic trials and he became the favorite for the gold medal. A thigh injury hampered his progress, and he lost in the Olympic semi-finals. Davenport was the national champion in the event for the next three years, 1965-67, and he won his gold medal in 1968. He finished fourth in the 1972 Olympics and came back to win the bronze medal in 1976.
His best event could have been the 60-yard hurdles, an indoor event not on the Olympic program. Davenport was the national champion in that event five times, in 1966 and 1967 and from 1969 through 1971. He graduated from Southern University In Louisiana in 1969, and in his fifth Olympic appearance, Davenport made his debut in the Winter Games as a member of the U.S. bobsled team. Here he became one of eight other Olympic athletes to ever participate in both games.
Davenport was a member of the National Fitness Leaders Association, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, the National Black College Alumni Association, the International Special Olympics, and the National Guard Association. He was also voted as one of Louisiana’s 25 Greatest Athletes by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association in 1999. He started the Southern University Track Club, which was the parent of the women’s track team and he made sure underprivileged kids had breakfast, lunch, and other healthy foods they needed.
Davenport died at the age of 57 after suffering a heart attack in June 2002, after collapsing in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. He was en route from Boise, Idaho to Falls Church, VA, where he served as chief of the United States National Guard Bureau’s Sports Program.
Funeral services were held in Seymour Hall on the Southern University campus. His wife Marian, his sons Mark and Willie, and one daughter, Tanya, survived Willie Davenport.
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