By: Alyssa Wilson
Lee Evans, the iconic sprinter who wore a black beret at the 1968 Olympics, died Wednesday at the age of 74. According to the Associated Press, he suffered from a stroke one week ago and his family was trying to relocate him to the United States from Nigeria, where he was coaching track.
From @AP: “Lee Evans, who won two gold medals at the racially charged 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City and at a presentation ceremony wore a Black Panther-style beret and raised his fist to protest racism in the United States, died Wednesday. He was 74.” @BNCNews #bnctruth pic.twitter.com/gFS8NVeyIM
— Anthony Amey (@AnthonyAmey) May 20, 2021
Evans was the first man to run 44 seconds in the 400-meter race, winning the gold medal at the Mexico City Games. His victory came after teammates Tommie Smith and John Carlos were sent back to the United States for raising their fists on the medal stand as an act of protest.
In interviews, Evans said he was warned not to do anything similar, so he took a different approach by wearing a black beret to show support for the Black Panther Party and civil rights organizations.
Evans won five U.S. titles at 400 meters, and is a member of the USATF and U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. He coached at numerous colleges and was the Director of Athletics for the Special Olympics. He also coached national teams in Qatar, Cameroon and Nigeria.
BREAKING NEWS: Olympic gold medalist, world record holder, USATF Hall of Famer and human rights activist Lee Evans died Wednesday at age 74. pic.twitter.com/rngsfNbW90
— USATF (@usatf) May 19, 2021
In addition to his teaching work, he was a humanitarian. While coaching in Nigeria, he was awarded the 1919 Nelson Mandela Award for being a person who “stood for the values of equality and friendship and respect of human rights against apartheid and any form of racism.” Evans also worked on the Madagascar Project that helped provide fresh water and self-sustaining farming techniques to the country.