John Baxter Taylor, a student and runner at the University of Pennsylvania, became Dr. Taylor, a veterinarian, in 1908—the same summer he competed in the London Games. “He had a clean-cut business way of covering the ground, with a length of stride seldom seen today, which was firmly impressed on one’s mind,” wrote the Pittsburgh Courier.
Taylor was the first African American athlete to win an Olympic gold medal, triumphing in the 1600-meter relay race at the 1908 Games. Tragically, the damp, cold climate in London took a toll on the 25-year-old’s body. While abroad, he developed a case of typhoid-pneumonia so severe that it proved fatal just months after the Olympics.