Laurel's Very Own Olympian

Laurel's Very Own Olympian

Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” 

Long before Erin and Ben were co-hosts of Home Town, Laurel, Mississippi created trailblazers that have made a name for themselves across the world. Leontyne Price. Tom Lester. Parker Posey. Lance Bass. Sam Meyers. Diane Ladd. Ray Walston.

One name that takes center stage is Laurel's very own Olympian— Ralph Boston.

 

Photo credit to blackthen.com

Ralph Boston was born on May 9, 1939, in Laurel, Mississippi. He grew up with his mother, father, and nine siblings on the street across from Nora Davis Magnet School. He loved having a big family around, and some of his fondest memories are with them. Boston grew up playing sports, and his favorite was football. His coaches and peers began to notice his athletic ability from a young age. Yet one coach envisioned Boston using his abilities in other unexpected ways. 

"It came about one day that I was playing on the basketball court behind Oak Park, and the track coach told me that he'd like me to run for him. I tried my best to wave him off, and I gave him all kinds of reasons. I told him that my mother wouldn't let me because I'm the youngest. He told me he'd call her to ask for permission, and I told him that if she said I could do it, I'd do it. When I got home, my mother told me that the track coach called and that I had practice in the morning."

He excelled in many sports while at Oak Park High School and eventually at Tennessee State University, but his most memorable achievements were his record-setting world performances at the Olympics in the long jump.

 

Photo credit to worldathletics.org

In 1960, Ralph Boston set the first world record in the long jump of 26 feet 11.25 inches, breaking by 3 inches the mark set by Jesse Owens 25 years earlier. Less than a month later, he won the gold medal in Rome.

"The Rome Olympics was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life. There was nothing like walking into the Olympic stadium and 80,000 people are watching you. The funny thing is after I finished, I thought it was a horrible jump."

 

 Photo credit to Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame

 "Coming home was an amazing feeling. I flew into Laurel, and my mother was waiting for me at the airport. Man, was she excited! That was the best feeling. When I got back, we were carried around town. It felt like we were floating."

Ralph Boston would win the Silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and take home the Bronze medal in the Mexico Olympics in 1968.

Photo credit to theolympians.co

While training for his last Olympics in 1968, Boston had been working on his Master's Degree. He accepted a job at the University of Tennessee as the Assistant Dean of Students.

"My advice is to work hard and work smart. Learn about what you want to accomplish. Be sharp, and find out what you need to do to succeed."

These days, Boston spends his time residing in Atlanta, Georgia, and Knoxville, Tennessee, but he comes home often to reunite with his Oak Park High School classmates. 

 

Watch Ralph Boston Long Jump in Slow Motion here!