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B.A.A. High Jump Legend John Thomas Passes at 71

January 17, 2013

 

John
Thomas, two-time Olympic high jump medalist and world record holder, passed
away on Tuesday, January 15 at the age of 71.

 

National
Track & Field Hall of Famer represented Boston
University and the Boston Athletic Association.

 

Statements
on the passing of John Thomas by B.A.A. officials:

 

“John Thomas transcended what it meant to be a champion
and an Olympian, and he achieved legendary status not only within the Boston
Athletic Association but also in Boston
sports. As the first African American member of the B.A.A., he made a profound,
positive impact on us. He was a gentleman who we greatly respected, and he
displayed the very best that sports can offer through his successes and how he
represented himself and others. John was an inspiration to all, and we will
aspire to honor his memory as we continue in our 125th Anniversary year.”

 

— Joann E. Flaminio, B.A.A. President

 

“For those of us growing up in Greater Boston in the 1950s
and 1960s, John Thomas in the high jump was our personal connection to
national, international and Olympic track and field. He was the first over
seven feet indoors. He was the B.A.A. athlete who set world records. Ever
since, when I have heard his name, the height 7’3-3/4″ always comes to
mind as the then stunning world record. He was on TV in the Olympics, and he
competed against the Russians on Wide World of Sports. To us in that day, his
name meant ‰Û¢excellence’ on the world stage, and it felt personal to
us. His was the name we looked for in every track meet and two Olympics. To see
him at our 125th anniversary last month at the Boston Garden,
on the site where he competed in the old B.A.A. Indoor Games, was a gripping
moment for everyone there. It was a privilege to have him compete for the
B.A.A. We will miss him, but he will continue to inspire.”

— Thomas S. Grilk, B.A.A. Executive
Director

 

 

Death notice:

http://massachusetts.obituaries.funeral.com/2013/01/16/john-thomas-1152013-brockton-ma-brockton-ma/

 

Tribute to John Thomas written by Toni
Reavis:

http://tonireavis.com/2013/01/16/passing-of-a-hero/

 

John Thomas Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Thomas_(athlete)

 

USA Track & Field Hall of Fame:

http://www.usatf.org/halloffame/TF/showBio.asp?HOFIDs=168

 

 

From The B.A.A. at 125 by John
Hanc, published by Sports Publishing®, copyright © 2012 by the Boston
Athletic Association and John Hanc (Sports Publishing is a division of Skyhorse
Publishing, Inc.® and The B.A.A. at 125 is scheduled for general
release in Spring 2013):

 

There were exceptions to that during this period, and the
most spectacular was a man who didn’t run, but jumped higher than anyone
in the world.  As a freshman at Boston
University in 1959, John
Thomas had stunned the track world when he became the first athlete to clear
seven feet in the high jump indoors.  In 1963, Thomas was recruited by
[Will] Cloney to join the B.A.A. track team. In a sense, he was the B.A.A., especially during the
indoor season. There were the marathon runners and me,” recalls Thomas.
“We were like a family.”

 

Thomas was one of the most distinguished members of the clan.
A nine-time national champion in his career, he competed in the 1964 U.S.
Olympic Trials as a B.A.A. athlete ‰ÛÓ and went on to win a silver medal in
the Games in Tokyo.

 

In addition to being the lone jumper on a team of marathon
runners, Thomas was African American, one of the very few in that era to
compete as a B.A.A. athlete.

 

The B.A.A. will update its web page as services/memorial
plans are announced (as of Thursday, January 17, 2013).

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