Rafer Johnson

Class Of 1959

He Ran For Others, And Paved The Way For Those That Followed.

Rafer Johnson, who won the Olympic gold medal in the 1960 decathlon, grew up in a Texas slum marked by segregation, discrimination and poverty. After his father took a railroad job in rural California, young Rafer lived in a house about the size and shape of a boxcar. And yet he rose to win Gold in the Olympics, appear in motion pictures and television dramas, work as a sportscaster and serve in the Peace Corps. In 1968, Johnson worked on the presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy and helped apprehend Kennedy's assassin. The following year, he founded the California Special Olympics, and he remains on the organization's board of directors. But it was in Westwood that the young student athlete, now the proud father of two UCLA graduates, first found his purpose. And his legacy—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar chose to attend UCLA in large part after seeing Johnson introduced on national television not as an Olympic athlete, but as UCLA student body president.

What Trails Will You Blaze?
  • Share:
  • Share on Google Plus
  • Share on Pinterest
The Centennial Campaign for UCLA - Learn More