Dr. Leroy T. Walker, Sr. was the first African-American to coach an Olympic team. He led the 1976 track team at the 1976 Montreal games. He was the president of the USOC from culminating in the Olympic games in Atlanta. Walker also served as a coach at North Carolina Central University and coached several track teams around the world.
Walker spent a portion of his youth in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, where he moved to live with his older brother, Joe, following the death of their father. Joe Walker owned several businesses and employed his younger brother, however, he always encouraged him to pursue his dreams and excel to reach his goals.
Walker went on to receive degrees from Benedict College (B.A.) and Columbia University (M.A.). He received his Ph.D. in biomechanics at New York University. He went back to Benedict College to begin a track and field collegiate coaching career. He received enough sports scholarships to finance his college expenses.
Walker chaired the physical education and recreation departments. NCCU track and field athletes were all in the Olympic Games between the years 1956 and 1980. When Walker retired in 1986 as North Carolina’s chancellor-emeritus, his team won 11 gold medals, 80 were named All-American, and 35 had national championships. In addition to coaching NCCU, he coached track teams from other countries. Israel and Ethiopia in 1960, Trinidad and Tobago in 1964, Jamaica in 1968, and Kenya in 1972. The last team he led to the Olympic Games was for the United States in 1976. The team included Bruce Jenner now Caitlyn Jenner.
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. He was also awarded the Eagle Award from the United States Sports Academy. The Eagle Award is the Academy’s highest international honor and was awarded to Walker for his significant contributions to international sport. Walker died in 2012, he was 93.