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Former UK sprinter Jim Green was racial pioneer, extraordinary athlete

Jim Green was honored by the city of Eminence Satuday. (Linda Sarrett Mathis Photo)


What a perfect time for the city of Eminence to honor former University of Kentucky track standout Jim Green.

What he did about 50 years was remarkable — and still very under appreciated by Kentuckians.

During my high school years, I thought the two best athletes I saw in person were 7-footer Tom Payne, the first African-American to play basketball at UK, and Green, a sensational sprinter.

Eminence dedicated the Jim Green Walking Trail Saturday — just a few days after the call for the renaming of Rupp Arena was made. Green was also an African-American and UK now does host the Jim Green Invitational each indoor season.

Green was the first African-American athlete to graduate from UK in 1971 and was just a dominant athlete. He was a state high school track champion at Eminence in the 100, 220 and 440 yard dashes. I saw him once at the state track meet and thought he had to be the fastest person anywhere even if he did used to train where the new walking trail is now (there was a railroad track there then).

At UK he won the 100-yard dash in 9.7 seconds in New Orleans and the 60-yard dash at the NCAA indoor meet.

There was quite a buzz that he would make the 1968 Olympic team because he had tied the world record in the 100 and was the U.S. record holder. However, he pulled a hamstring in the semifinals and missed getting to go to the Olympics.

Green didn’t let that disappointment end his career. He won five NCAA championships and eight SEC titles at UK while setting both school and conference records. He went on to a five-year pro track career that took him to 10 countries.

He’s in the Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame and Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.

So when you think of racial pioneers and great athletes, remember the name Jim Green because he was both.

1 comment

  1. Jim Green was in Olympic Trials and John Carlos of the black glove salute guy in Mexico City went by Green’s room every morning and knocked on the door saying “winner!”When the heat came s as Jim Green. Ran against Carlos he smoked him at the hotel Green knocked on Carlos door and yelled “WINNER!!!”

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