Ralph Harold Metcalfe was a celebrated U.S. sprinter, track coach, and politician. Metcalfe’s years as a student at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was an incredible one. He won a lot of medals and was regarded as the world’s fastest human in 1934 and 1935.
Ralph Harold Metcalfe Sr. was born on the 29th of May 1910. As an athlete, he was an American track and field sprinter. His strong finishes earned him an outstanding four Olympic medals (gold, 2 silver, and bronze), eight Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles, and six National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) titles from 1932 through 1936.
He jointly held the world record in the 100-meter dash and placed second in that event in two Olympics, first to Eddie Tolan in 1932 at Los Angeles and then to Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.
Metcalfe’s career blossomed. In his amateur track career, he held the 100-meter dash record at 10.30 in 1934, tying it at least eight times, and he also tied the 200-meter dash world record of 20.6 seconds. Metcalfe’s lone Olympic gold medal was won in Berlin in 1936 when he ran as part of the famed 4 x 100 relay team. Metcalfe later retired from track and graduated from Marquette. He also attended the University of Southern California (USC), earning a Masters in 1939. As were a lot of notable African Americans, Metcalfe was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
During World War II, he joined the armed forces and fought courageously to end Jim Crow segregation in America and end fascism abroad, better known as the Double-V movement.
When the war ended, Metcalfe returned to athletics and coached track at Xavier University in Louisana, then returned to Chicago where he became a wealthy and successful businessman for the South Side.
As a politician, Metcalfe’s political dream was actualized when he was elected a U.S. Congressman representing Illinois’ First Congressional District from 1971 to 1978.
Metcalfe co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), was inducted into the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame (1975), and was named a member of the President’s Commission on Olympic Sports.
For his contribution to Track and Field, Ralph Harold Metcalfe was inducted into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975.
While running for re-election in 1978, Metcalfe died from a heart attack at his South Side apartment on October 10, at the age of 68. He had previously suffered a heart attack in 1967.