INDIANAPOLIS – Dr. LeRoy Walker, the first African-American Olympic coach of Team USA and first African-American President of the U.S. Olympic Committee, died Monday at the age of 93. Walker was inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1983 and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1987.
A pioneer in the sport of track and field, Walker was the former longtime coach at North Carolina Central University and served the sport as both a coach and an administrator. He was inducted into the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame as a member of its inaugural class in 1995, served as President of the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1992-96 and was named the first President Emeritus of the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1996. He held a doctoral degree from New York University.
Walker began his career at North Carolina Central in 1945 when he accepted a position as a football and basketball coach. He then started a track and field program as conditioning for his football and basketball players. He retired from coaching in 1973 before serving as Vice Chancellor from 1974-83 and as Chancellor from 1983-86.
During Walker’s run at North Carolina Central, he coached athletes to 11 Olympic medals and sent track and field athletes to every Olympic Games from 1956 until 1980. He coached National Track & Field Hall of Famer Lee Calhoun to consecutive Olympic gold medals in the 110-meter hurdles in 1956 and 1960. Walker coached a total of eight Olympians, 30 national champions and 80 All Americans. In 1976 he became the first African American head coach of the men’s U.S. Olympic team.
His involvement also included time spent as chairman of the AAU men’s track & field committee (1973-76) and the coordinator of coaching assignments for the AAU and TAC (1973-80). He was the TAC president from 1984-88 and later served as senior vice president for sport of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.
Walker is the author of three major books surrounding track and field and physical fitness and became the first African American president of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD).
A 1940 graduate of Benedict College, Walker earned 11 letters in football, basketball and track and field before earning a master’s degree at Columbia University in 1941. Following graduation he served as department chairs of physical education and recreation at Benedict and Bishop Colleges before moving to Prairie View A&M University. Walker also worked as director of the Army Specialized Training Program.
Walker has received 14 different hall of fame inductions, which also includes the North Carolina Central University Hall of Fame. He was the first African American to receive the James J. Corbett Memorial Award (1993), the top honor granted by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.