Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born in Bay City, Texas, Mal Whitfield, or Marvelous Mal as he was called, joined the United States Air Force in 1943. After World War II, he remained in the air force but also enrolled at Ohio State University. In the early 1950s he also served in the air force during the Korean War.
He won the NCAA title in the 800 m in 1948 and 880 yd in 1949 and the AAU title from 1949 to 1951 at 800 m, in 1953 and 1954 at 880 yd and in 1952 at 400 m. He also won the 800 m at the 1951 Pan American Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, he repeated his 800 m victory. He also earned a silver medal as a member of U.S 4 × 400 m relay team. He set a world record in 880 yd of 1:49.2 in 1950 and dropped it to 1:48.6 in 1952.
In 1954 Whitfield won the James E. Sullivan Memorial Award , given annually by the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States (AAU) to the outstanding amateur athlete in the country. He was the first black athlete to win the award. Whitfield narrowly missed making the 1956 Olympic team while a student at California State University, Los Angeles and he retired from track competition shortly thereafter. After graduating he worked for the U.S. State Department, conducting sports clinics in Africa. He later ran a training camp for runners in Ethiopia.
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