IU’s Archie Harris was only Black athlete to set discus world record

Two pioneering Black athletes at Indiana University were basketball player Bill Garrett and football quarterback George Taliaferro.

But several years before they arrived at IU, there was another: Archie Harris. If the name is unfamiliar, that can be attributed to the fact World War II deprived him of Olympic glory.

Eighty years ago, Harris became the first and only Black athlete to set a world record in the discus, doing so in winning a NCAA championship held at Stanford. Indeed, Harris — also a Hoosiers football player and later a Tuskegee airman — was the first Black athlete to set a world record in a throwing event.

Racial discrimination kept him from his goal of becoming a commercial pilot, so he served as a physical education teacher at the Harlem YMCA until his death at age 47.

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