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John Baxter Taylor, Jr.

February 16, 2010

John Baxter Taylor, Jr., a Central High School grad, entered the Wharton School in September 1903. He withdrew from Wharton at the end of his second year and shortly thereafter, in October 1905, enrolled in the School of Veterinary Medicine, graduating from this three-year program in 1908.

Track remained a constant for Taylor at Penn, and he contributed significantly to the university’s athletic standing. As a member of Penn’s 1903, 1904, 1905, 1907 and 1908 track teams, Taylor made Penn once again the champions on the track and field. Taylor’s stride measured 8 feet 6 inches, the longest of any runner yet known at that time. He was indisputably the best quarter-miler in the college world, establishing the world’s interscholastic record of 49.1 seconds for 440 yards in 1903 and setting a new record of 48.6 seconds for this event four years later. In 1907 he was also the indoor champion for 600 yards. Shortly after his graduation from Penn, at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, Taylor became the first African American in history to win an Olympic gold medal. Sadly, he died of typhoid pneumonia months after his historic win.

Haywood Perry, III (Col ’12) and Tiffany John-Lewis (Col ’10)

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