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LeRoy Walker was the first black coach of an American Olympic team and the first black president of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
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At the Games, Walker coached the U.S. men's track and field team, who medaled in 19 different events and ultimately collected six gold medals. Successfully steering the Olympic Festival to NCCU one year, Walker ultimately brought an unmatched level of prominence to the university with his Olympic successes and books.
Walker was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1987 and named president of the United States Olympic Committee in 1992—becoming the first African American to earn that post. The position was capped off four years later with the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where he led the 645-member U.S. delegation into the Centennial Olympic Stadium as part of the opening festivities. Three years after Atlanta, Walker presided over the 1999 Special Olympic World Games in North Carolina.
Walker received the Olympic Order, the highest honor awarded by the International Olympic Committee, for his Olympic successes, as well as 15 honorary degrees. Throughout his career, however, Walker maintained an air of modesty regarding his significance in the African-American community. Following his appointment as president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, he stated, "[Winston] Churchill once said it's not enough to prepare yourself to do your best. You must prepare yourself to do what's required. I want people to know this can happen. On the other hand, if they look at my record, you wouldn't think I've achieved this because I am black."
In an interview with The Associated Press in 199, Walker said that he preferred to be called "coach," explaining, "When you call me that, it means you're my friend. That means you've known me for a long time. As coaches, we're in the community somehow. So I like the word 'coach.' It gives a different connotation than a Ph.D. degree."
LeRoy Walker died in Durham, North Carolina, on April 23, 2012, at the age of 93.
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