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Pitt Track Legend Herb Douglas, Oldest Living U.S. Olympic Medalist, Dies At 101



The oldest living U.S. Olympic medalist and a Pitt legend has died. The Pitt athletic department announced that Herb Douglas died on Saturday, April 22, 2023. He was 101.

Douglas graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1948 and went on to place second in the Olympic trails in the long jump. Later that year at the London’s 1948 Summer Olympics, Douglas won a bronze medal for the United States.

Douglas was born on March 9, 1922, in Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood neighborhood and went on to attend Taylor Allderdice High School, where he became the first Black basketball player at the high school. Douglas would go on to receive an athletic scholarship from Xavier University of Louisiana, the country’s only Catholic historically Black college or university. In 1942, Douglas’ 440-relay team made Xavier the first Black college to win a national title.

During his sophomore year, Douglas returned home to Pittsburgh to help run the family business started by his father, who lost his vision due to a stroke.

In 1945, Douglas made the decision to transfer to Pitt and went on to star on the football and track teams from 1945 to 1948. He went on to excel, winning 4 intercollegiate championships in the long jump and 1 in the 100-yard dash. From there, Douglas won the bronze medal in 1948 with a 24-foot, 8.75-inch long jump.

“In every role that he filled, as an aspiring athlete from Hazelwood, as a student-athlete and University trustee and as an esteemed businessman, Olympian and community leader, Herb Douglas excelled,” Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said. “He was both a champion himself and a champion of others, never hesitating to open doors of opportunity and help people pursue their own success. Unsurprisingly, Herb left an indelible mark on this world, while leaving an incomprehensible hole in the hearts of so many. I am proud to have called him my friend, and Karen and I will be keeping his family and circle of loved ones close in thought as we begin to honor his remarkable life and legacy.”

“Herb Douglas led a remarkable life that inspired people the world over. Whether it was an Olympic medalist, accomplished business executive or personal mentor, Herb impacted and was loved by so many. That is certainly the case at the University of Pittsburgh, where his life and legacy are truly enduring,” said Heather Lyke, director of athletics at Pitt. “On a personal note, one of the greatest blessings for me here has been getting to know Herb and listening to the stories he shared and lessons he taught me. His incredible intellect and determination were only surpassed by his personal kindness. Pitt Athletics is forever indebted to his passion and support. It is so fitting that our future indoor track will be named in Herb’s honor, ensuring his name and legacy live on to inspire future Pitt student-athletes.”

Memorial contributions can be made to the Herbert P. Douglas Jr. Scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh. Service details are pending.

Pitt’s new indoor track and field facility, the second phase of the school’s Victory Heights athletics facilities plan, is to be named after Douglas. Construction will start on that project following the completion of the volleyball, gymnastics and wrestling arena currently being built next to Petersen Events Center.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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