XV Olympiad - Helsinki, Finland
Mal Whitfield - First American serviceman to win a
gold medal while in active duty.
||Whitfield was inspired to pursue track after watching Eddie
Tolan defeat Ralph Metcalfe at the 1932 Olympic Games held
in the Los Angeles Coliseum. Soon after his birth in Bay
City, Texas, the Whitfield family moved to Watts. His father
died when he was four, eight years later, his mother died.
His sister Betty Clark obtained a court order to gain
custody and to prevent his being sent to an orphanage.
Finishing Thomas Jefferson High School in 1943, he joined
the Army Air Force. After attending Ohio State University,
he completed his military service which included 27 combat
missions as an aerial gunner during the Korean War.
In 1952, following his military Honorable Discharge, he
temporarily settled back in his hometown of Los Angeles. In
1955, he was appointed by the Educational Exchange program
in the Department of State to tour Europe, Middle East/Arab
World, and Africa as a Sports Goodwill Ambassador. In 1955,
he enrolled in Los Angeles State University, and completed
his BS degree. 1956, following graduation, he accepted an
appointment from the Liberian Government as advisor to the
late President, William V. Shadrack Tubman for Physical
Education and sports in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa.
1960, upon the competition of the Liberian contract, he
accepted a professorship as Head of the Physical Education
and Sports Department at the new University of Nigeria in
Nsukka, Nigeria. This was offered by the Governor General of
Nigeria and Chancellor of the University, Dr. Nandi Azikwe.
1963, at the completion of his contract, Whitfield
joined the Foreign Service.
|Thirty four years later he
dedicates his full services with the U.S.
Government and for highly productive and
high quality performance as a Youth and
Sports Affairs Officer for the United States
Information Agency as a tireless proponent
of international sports.
During his career as a diplomat extraordinaire, he traveled
to over 132 countries and played a key role in training and
developing African athletes. the late President Ronald Reagan wrote
about him: "Whether flying combat missions over Korea, or
winning gold medal after gold medal at the Olympics, or
serving as an ambassador of goodwill among the young
athletes of Africa, you have given your all. This country is
proud of you, and grateful to you." Shortly after his
retirement from government service in 1989, "Marvelous Mal"
was invited to the Oval Office, where President George Bush
recognized his exemplary service to the nation and the
|In conjunction with the
Centennial Olympics, the Xerox Corporation
and the United States Olympic Committee
conducted a poll with USA Today to determine
the greatest living 100 American Olympians.
Mal Whitfield was selected to this
distinguished group: "Golden 100." The
Golden 100 meet in Atlanta, July 18-23.
Legendary diver Pat McCormick, winner of
four Olympic Gold medals (1952-1956) said of
Whitfield. "He is a true legend; they don't
make them like him anymore." Other members
of the Golden 100 gravitated toward
Whitfield, showering him with praise. The late Bob
Hayes (1964) Olympic 100 meter champion: "He
is a friend, a brother, and a mentor. When
we were coming up out of the ghettos, he
took care of us. We not only like him, we
love him." Bob Richards, "The Vaulting
Vicar" who was a 1948 Gold medal winner and
teammate of Whitfield: "He did more than the