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First African American Winner Of Olympic Decathon Dies

Milt Campbell prepares for a practice run on the track field at Indiana University.

The first African American winner of the Olympic decathlon and member of the Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame has died. Milt Campbell was 78-years-old and died Friday in Gainsville, Florida, after a decade long battle with prostate cancer.

Campbell had already won a silver and gold medal in the 1952 and 1956 Olympic decathlon before he enrolled at IU.

Former Herald Times sports reporter Bob Hammel says Campbell was on IU’s track and football teams that led to a promising future.

In 1957 Campbell was drafted by the Cleveland Browns. And in 1982 he became a member of the inaugural class of the Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame. That’s where Hammel met Campbell.

“Milt Campbell deserves to be called, I think, the best athlete Indiana ever had,” Hammel says.

Professor at the Jacobs School of Music David Baker lived in the same building as Campbell during their undergraduate years at IU. Baker says there was a humble confidence about him.

“He was very much aware of who he was and the celebratory notions that surrounded him,” Baker says. “And we would laugh from time to time because he was very much aware though he was humble.”

Baker says Campbell will be missed, but he will always remember his dedication and fearless spirit.

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