Greater than Gold: The Life and Legacy of Rafer Johnson

Rafer Johnson’s life was greater than any medal could measure. He passed away in December 2020 at the age of 86 and left behind a legacy that we can all learn from today.

Many remember Johnson for his gold medal decathlon duel with fellow Bruin C.K. Yang at the 1960 Olympics. But there was much more to him than that glorious night in Rome.

At UCLA, he was the second African American student body president. He played basketball for John Wooden. He became the first African American captain of a United States Olympic team, first to carry the flag and the first to light the Olympic cauldron at the 1984 games.

Johnson was a trusted friend throughout his life. Along with Eunice Kennedy Shriver, he founded the Special Olympics in Southern California. He became friends with Robert Kennedy and was at the senator’s side when he was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel.

Despite his tremendous accomplishments, selfless service and storied past, he is not a household name like many of the celebrities and athletes of today.

Former UCLA women’s gymnastics head coach Valorie Kondos Field, Sports Curator at Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture Damion L. Thomas, and former professional soccer player and activist Kaiya McCullough come together in a UCLA Connections virtual conversation about this multidimensional and beloved Bruin.

A recording will be available after the premiere.


Valorie Kondos Field

Former UCLA Women’s Gymnastics Head Coach

Damion L. Thomas

Sports Curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Kaiya McCullough

Former Professional Soccer Player and Activist


Tuesday, October 19

11:00 a.m. PDT | 2:00 p.m. EDT

If you are watching the premiere, click the play button on the image below which will be available one hour before the premiere time.

Recording will also be available here after the premiere.


We encourage everyone to register online and submit questions for the participants.