Bobby Morrow, Who Ran to Stardom at the 1956 Olympics, Dies at 84


Bobby Morrow, who sprinted to three gold medals at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, dominating his competition as only Jesse Owens had done at the Berlin Games in 1936, died on Saturday at his home in Harlingen, Tex. He was 84.

His partner, Judy Parker, said that the cause was not known but that he had received diagnoses of anemia and neuropathy.

By the time Morrow arrived in Melbourne in November 1956, he had harnessed his speed — which he had honed chasing jackrabbits on his father’s farm in Texas — to a preternatural ability to stay calm.

“Whatever success I have had is due to being so perfectly relaxed that I can feel my jaw muscles wiggle,” he was quoted as saying by David Wallechinsky in “The Complete Book of the Olympics” (1984).

Morrow’s races took place over a week on the track at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. First he won the 100-meter sprint in 10.5 seconds, a time slowed by a headwind. (In two early heats, he had tied the Olympic record of 10.3 seconds.)

Then, in the 200-meter final, he won the gold in 20.6 seconds, matching the world record.

“Ever since I started sprinting, I wanted to duplicate the great Jesse Owens and win two Olympic championships,” Morrow said, after he had won the 100 and 200-meter races.

But he had one more race to match Owens’s 1936 feat: the 4×100-meter relay. Running the final leg after his teammates Ira Murchison, Leamon King and Thane Baker, Morrow extended the lead they had given him over the Soviet Union. Their winning time of 39.95 seconds broke the world record set by Owens, Ralph Metcalfe, Foy Draper and Frank Wykoff in 1936.

Morrow became the only Olympic runner to win the two sprints and the relay since Owens (who also won a fourth medal, in the long jump, in 1936). Only Carl Lewis, in 1984, and Usain Bolt, in 2012 and 2016, have equaled that accomplishment.

In addition to Ms. Parker, Morrow is survived by two daughters, Vicki Watson and Elizabeth Kelton; a son, Ron; two stepdaughters, Alisa Matz and Lynn Zanca; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His marriages to Jo Ann Strickland and Judy Bolus ended in divorce.

After missing out on competing in Rome, Morrow was, among other things, an insurance broker, a clothing store owner and a farmer. He returned briefly to prominence in track when he testified to the Senate Commerce Committee in 1965 that the governance of amateur athletics poorly served athletes and did not build the best possible Olympic teams.

But he faded from the track world, often forgotten when great sprinters were remembered.

“I don’t get mentioned,” he told The Guardian. “I get left out a lot. And I think that’s because I was fighting them so much.”



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