Howard P. Drew - A Brief
His First Track
Born in Lexington, Virginia in 1890 but raised in
Springfield, Massachusetts, Howard Drew likely ran in his first
track meet in the summer of 1905 when he competed in The
Springfield City Games in Forest Park. Without money to buy
spikes, he hammered roofing nails through the soles of his tennis
shoes. He won the "novice" 100 yard dash but the nails hurt his
feet so much he decided to run the 440 yard dash in bare feet - on a
cinder track - and took first place as well. Drew said "what the
nails failed to do to my feet the cinders on the ground did. I felt
I had been walking on a sea of glass mingled with fire. I went home
with sore feet but very proud of my two medals."
[Howard Drew's gold medal
from the Springfield City Games, July 4 1905]
His High School
He entered Springfield High School in 1906 but
dropped out his freshman year to support his family. By the time he
re-entered as a freshman in 1910 he was highly ranked as one
of the nations best sprinters..
Howard Drew with Springfield
High School Track Team, 1911
(Below) From the 1912 Springfield High School
Yearbook, The Pnalka.
the last paragraph.
Photos of Howard Drew while in high school
From His 1913 High School Yearbook
Howard Drew -
In 1912, while still in high school, Drew won the
US Olympic Trials 100 meter dash, easily beating the fastest
American of the time, Ralph Craig.
Click on Above Newspaper Headline from
Republican of 6/11/1912 to read Story
Although a bone fide high school student, Howard
Drew had a family to support. When the mayor of Boston learned
that Drew might not be able to go to the Olympics, he started a fund
with a $25 donation. The Springfield Newspapers wired AAU
Commissioner Sullivan to make sure that if donated funds were given
to Drew's family that it would not affect Drew's amateur
status. Students and citizens of Springfield were eager to
help Howard Drew travel to Stockholm and the donations poured in
allowing him to make the journey. He was the
overwhemlingly presumed favorite to win Olympic Gold in both
Drew represented the USA in the 1912 Stockholm
Olympics and most likely would have won gold medals had he not
pulled a muscle in the 100 semi-final causing him to withdraw from
the finals. His trainers told him he risked permanent injury,
so with great disappointment he watched teammate Ralph Craig win
both the 100 and 200 knowing he would have easily won had he been
able to compete.
This recently acquired
original photo of Howard P. Drew says on the back
credited as 'Photo by Bain News Service'.
It was released on Jan.
27 1916, the day after the Millrose Games (see below),
appears to be Drew at an Olympic ceremony.
Upon his return home Drew told the local newspaper
that at a time trial the US team had in Sweeden, he posted a
world record time and expected to win the 100m event. He took
his preliminary race easy but decided to go for a record in his
semi-final. "I went out of my holes strong and soon had a lead
of six yards. About half the distance I struck a piece of soft
track and all of a sudden I felt my muscles in the fleshy part of my
left leg give way and I finished the heat hopping. I had such
a big lead that the others in the race could not pass me."
Drew went to the starting line for the 100m final
but could hardly move and had to be helped back. The trainers
tried everything to get Drew in shape to run the 200m but decided
that he risked permanent injury and kept him from any further
Read Drew's account of his misfortune by clicking
on the newspaper headline below.
Click on Above
Newspaper Headline from 8/1/1912
for Drew's Own Story on His
Story in the August 1912
NAACP Crisis Publication
Note: Ralph Craig was
recently inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame,
primarily because he, not Drew, won the 1912 Olympic gold
AMERICAN MUSCLES AND MINDS: PUBLIC
DISCOURSE AND THE SHAPING OF NATIONAL IDENTITY DURING EARLY
Steven W. Pope
Orono, Maine, U.S.A.
In truth, the exclusion of
African-Americans and women belied the dominant
"melting-pot" rationales for American athletic prowess.
The romantic belief that American Olympic teams brought
minority groups together was, accurate only as far as
certain European immigrant groups were concerned.
Although it was common to interpret black and female
athletes historical involvement in sport as an
inexorable procession toward freedom and equality, in reality, Jim Crowism and sexism in
amateur sport ensured that African-Americans and women
were excluded from Olympic
participation.African American track and field
athletes were conspicuously excluded from bourgeois
public discourse on the Olympic Games. Until William De
Hart Hubbard won the broad jump in the 1924 Paris Games,
only Howard P. Drew, a star Springfield,
Massachusetts sprinter invited to the 1912 Games by
James Sullivan, was recognized in the national sport
commentary. After winning a trial heat in the 100
meters, Drew pulled a tendon, and was unable to compete
in the finals which his teammates predicted would have
given him the gold medal. Later, as a collegiate athlete
at the University of Southern California, Drew won many
intercollegiate titles and set world records. His 9.6
second time for the 100-yard dash run in 1914 stood
unsurpassed until future African-American Olympic star,
Thomas Edward Tolan broke the record in 1929 with a 9.5
recognized than Drew, Tolan received an athletic
scholarship to the University of Michigan, where he set
both Michigan and Western(Big Ten) Conference records in
both the 100-yard and 200-yard sprints. Tolan won gold
medals in the 100- meter and 200-meter sprints at the
1932 Los Angeles Games. His 10.3 second 100-meter time
would be equaled by Jesse Owens in the 1936 Berlin
Games, but would remain unbroken until 1960. Jesse Owens became the first
nationally-renown African-American Olympic athlete as a
result of his stellar performances in 1936. Not until
the 1936 Berlin Games were exponents of the American
melting-pot ideology forced to address the blatant
contradiction in opposing Nazi racial philosophy while
doing nothing about racism at home except to use Jesse
Owens as anti-Nazi
Fate stepped in one more time to deny Howard Drew his
chance for Olympic glory. World War I prevented
him from going for the gold again when the 1916 Olympics were
canceled. He served in the US Army as a Supply Sergeant. The Allied
Troops did hold their own "Pershing Olympics" in Paris
where the biggest star was "sensational sprinter" Howard
By the time tryouts for the ?>USA
track team for the 1920 Olympics came, Drew, now in his thirties,
was unable to make the team.
Nevertheless, Charles Paddock the 100 gold medalist of the
1920 Olympics called Drew "the smoothest piece of running machinery
the world has ever seen."
A straight-A student by the time he graduated from
Springfield High School, by then re-named Central High School, he
entered the University of Southern California (USC) on a work-study
At USC he was a National AAU Champion in the 100y
and 220y dashes and held multiple world records in a multitude of
short sprints between 1913 and 1918. Some of his World Records
weren't broken until 1929.
One of Howard Drew's Many Rose Bowl
Not many people know that the Rose Bowl was a major
track meet for many years before switching to football. Howard
Drew was very passionate about "American style" football, having
played at Springfield High School. To make sure that Drew did
not injure himself, USC would not allow him to play football.
However Drew was partly responsible for helping to bring football to
the west coast colleges due to his bylined column in the USC
campus newspaper, which was then called the Daily Southern
Californian, as well as writing for the Los Angeles
Express on civil rights, physical fitness and the importance of
During his career at USC Drew set a World
Record in the 100y dash of 9.6 seconds on March
28, 1914. He was National AAU Champion in the
100 and 200 and in 1914 set a new World Record of 21 2/10
(21.2) in the 220y dash (broken 7 years later by
Charles Paddock in 1921).
In 1918 Drew is referenced in Popular Science
Magazine with "the greatest speed attained by any man," with a 9 3/5
second 100 yard dash from March 28, 1914) (Click image to enlarge)
Earning mostly "A" grades at USC, Drew continued
his education with the study of law at Drake University.
He became an attorney and was the first Black judge in
Connecticut after settling in Hartford.
He played baseball and football in high school (USC
didn't want him risking his track career so he didn't play football
in college) and Drew was the only African-American member of the
1912 USA Olympic (exhibition) baseball team. Jim
Thorpe was also on the track & baseball teams and
shared left field responsibilties with Drew.
Howard Drew also wrote newspaper articles on civil
rights, fitness and education. He was a track coach and later a
track official - often as a starter for events that
included Jesse Owens.
Drew Takes A Public Stand
As a youth he refused to
run at Boston Athletic Association track meets because they posted a
notice that "no Negro would ever represent the association in any
way." Drew refused to act as an attraction for them under the
circumstances and publically stated so.
Click Above to Read
Drew - Record Breaker
Click Above To Read Entire Newspaper
Drew is a Headliner
at the Millrose
January 26, 1916 -
The crowds at Madison Square Garden are so large that the Fire
Department ordered the doors closed and the police had trouble
controlling the crowd.
They came to the Millrose Games to watch
Howard Drew compete in a special invitational event that brought
together four of the world's fastest sprinters. The finish was
so close that there was a conference amongst the officials before
the "Springfield sprinter" was awarded first place in a World
Record-equalling time that Drew himself had set 4 years
earlier. The NY Times wrote "it certainly served to make Drew
the leader in his class again."
Click Below To Read Entire Newspaper
Howard Drew graced the cover of one of the earliest
editions of the NAACP's "The
Crisis" magazine - the special
Howard P. Drew was the first great Black track
star, an Olympian, World Record holder, scholar, lawyer, judge,
civil rights activist and gentleman. 100 years ago he was a high
school student in Springfield and the captain of his school's track
There is so much more to the amazing life of Howard
P. Drew. The "City of Firsts" will hopefully soon recognize the
original Fastest Man in the World: Springfield's own,
Howard Porter Drew.