Rafer Johnson

Rafer Johnson

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Rafer Johnson
Event decathlon
Height 6'3" (190 cm)
Weight 201 lbs (91 kg)
Nationality United States
PR 100 – 10.3 (1957); 220y – 21.0 (1956); 400 – 47.9 (1956); 110H – 13.8 (1956); HJ – 6-2½ (1.89) (1955); PV – 13-5¼ (4.09) (1960); LJ – 25-5½ (7.76) (1956); SP – 54-11½ (16.75) (1958); DT – 172-3 (52.50) (1960); JT – 251-9 (76.73) (1960); Dec - 7982 (1960)
College UCLA
Club Southern California Striders

Rafer Lewis Johnson (1934-) held the world record in the decathlon.

Rafer Johnson made his decathlon début in 1954 and the next year he won the 1955 Pan American Games title and set the first of his three world decathlon records. Johnson, who competed for UCLA and the Southern California Striders, won the AAU decathlon in 1956, 1958, and 1960 and after placing second to Milt Campbell at the 1956 Summer Olympics, never lost another decathlon. His classmate and training partner at UCLA, Yang Chuan-Kwang of Taiwan, was Johnson's main challenger in 1960. He outduelled Yang in Rome by just 58 points to win the gold medal. He was injured at the 1956 Games, which forced him to withdraw from the Olympic long jump, for which he had also qualified.

At UCLA, Johnson also played basketball under coach John Wooden, and was a starter on the 1959-60 Men's Basketball team. [1]

Later life

After his retirement in 1960 he acted in a few movies, and served for many years as a commercial spokesman for many products. In the moments after Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, a voice called out, "Get the gun, Rafer!", refering to Johnson because he and football star Rosey Grier were standing next to Kennedy when he was shot.

In 1976, Johnson competed on the TV series "Superstars" and earned $2,100.[2]

Johnson has been inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, and the NFHS Hall of Fame. In 1984, Johnson was chosen to light the Olympic Flame at the Opening Ceremony of the Los Angeles Olympics.

Johnson was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year in 1958 [3] and won the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States in 1960, breaking that award's color barrier. In 1994, he was elected into the first class of the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.[4] In 1998, he was named one of ESPN's 100 Greatest North American Athletes of the 20th Century. In 2006, the NCAA named him one of the 100 Most Influential Student Athletes of the past 100 years.

Rafer Johnson Junior High School in Kingsburg, Ca. is named after Johnson, as are Rafer Johnson Community Day School in Bakersfield, CA and Rafer Johnson Children's Center in Bakersfield, CA. This last school, which has classes for special education students from the ages of Birth-5, also puts on an annual Rafer Johnson Day. Every year Rafer speaks at the event and cheers on hundreds of students with significant special needs as they participate in a variety of track and field events.

He is the daughter of Jenny Johnson-Jordan, who competed in Beach Volleyball at the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Johnson's autobiography, "The Best That I Can Be" was published in 1998.

External links


  1. [1] "UCLA.edu Spotlight" October 1, 2005
  2. http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Dugout/8973/athletes/johnsonrafer.html Retrieved 2009-02-20.
  3. [2] SportsIllustrated.CNN.com
  4. http://www.sportshumanitarian.com/inductees/rafer_johnson.html Retrieved 2009-02-20.