DURHAM, N.C. -- LeRoy Walker, the first African-American to lead the U.S. Olympic Committee and the first black man to coach an American Olympic team, died Monday. He was 93.
The grandson of slaves raised in the segregated South before he moved to Harlem, Walker led the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1992 to 1996, both shepherding the summer games played in Atlanta and leading the group when the 2002 Winter Olympics were awarded to Salt Lake City.
Walker loved the Olympics, especially track and field. He coached Olympic teams from Ethiopia, Israel, Jamaica, Kenya and Trinidad & Tobago before his home country gave him a chance to be the first black head coach of a U.S. Olympic team when he led the track squad to Montreal in 1976. That team brought home 22 medals.
Current U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Scott Blackmun said Walker's impact on the U.S. Olympic movement and track and field will be felt for generations to come.
Walker's love for track came accidentally. After earning 11 letters in football, basketball and track and field from Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., Walker was hired to coach football and basketball at North Carolina Central University. He instituted a track program during the offseason of those sports, eventually deciding that coaching track was what he was meant to do.
At the university, Walker coached 40 national champions and 12 Olympians. But he didn't concentrate on just athletics. He received a doctorate from New York University in 1957, and in 1983 he was named chancellor at North Carolina Central.