He won Olympic gold, then did something special.

Rafer Johnson Class of 1959

In 1958, Sports Illustrated named him Sportsman of the Year. In 1960, he won Olympic Gold in the decathlon. But Rafer Johnson has always been more than an athletic champion. In eighth grade, high school and at UCLA, his classmates elected him president – an African-American leader chosen by people from very different backgrounds. He made friends of UCLA teammate Yang Chuan-kwang and Russian rival Vasili Kuznetsov.

In the tumult of 1968, Johnson was a real-life hero, wresting the gun from the man who shot Robert F. Kennedy. Only days later, Kennedy’s sister, Eunice Shriver, enlisted his help with the first Special Olympics games. Inspired by the young people who competed despite being stigmatized for disabilities, Johnson founded the California Special Olympics. The man who lit the cauldron to open the 1984 Olympic Games was back in the Coliseum in 2015, standing beside the young athlete who carried the torch for the Special Olympics World Games. Always a champion of inclusion: Rafer Johnson.

What Trails Will You Blaze?

Rafer Johnson The Optimists - UCLA - Rafer Johnson

He won Olympic gold, then did something special.

Rafer Johnson

In 1958, Sports Illustrated named him Sportsman of the Year. In 1960, he won Olympic Gold in the decathlon. But Rafer Johnson has always been more than an athletic champion. In eighth grade, high school and at UCLA, his classmates elected him president – an African-American leader chosen by people from very different backgrounds. He made friends of UCLA teammate Yang Chuan-kwang and Russian rival Vasili Kuznetsov.

In the tumult of 1968, Johnson was a real-life hero, wresting the gun from the man who shot Robert F. Kennedy. Only days later, Kennedy’s sister, Eunice Shriver, enlisted his help with the first Special Olympics games. Inspired by the young people who competed despite being stigmatized for disabilities, Johnson founded the California Special Olympics. The man who lit the cauldron to open the 1984 Olympic Games was back in the Coliseum in 2015, standing beside the young athlete who carried the torch for the Special Olympics World Games. Always a champion of inclusion: Rafer Johnson.

What Trails Will You Blaze?