Rafer Lewis JOHNSON

United States of America
TeamUnited States of America
Olympic Medals
Games Participations2
First Olympic GamesMelbourne 1956
Year of Birth1934


Rafer Johnson made his decathlon début in 1954 and the next year won the Pan American Games title and set the first of his three world decathlon records. Johnson, who competed for UCLA and the Southern California Striders, won the AAU decathlon in 1956, 1958, and 1960 and after placing second to Milt Campbell at the 1956 Olympics, never lost another decathlon. He was injured at the 1956 Games, which forced him to withdraw from the Olympic long jump, for which he had also qualified. His three world decathlon records were set in 1955, 1958, and at the 1960 US Olympic Trials. Johnson's Olympic gold medal was won dramatically in the final 1,500 over his UCLA college roommate, C. K. Yang of Chinese Taipei, who took the silver medal. Yang was close after nine events and was a better 1,500 metre runner, but Johnson followed closely behind him throughout the race, and would not let Yang pull away, enabling Johnson to win the gold.

After his retirement in 1960 he acted in a few movies, and served for many years as a commercial spokesman for many products. The plaintiff cry moment's after Robert Kennedy's assassination was, "Get the gun, Rafer!," and it was Rafer Johnson to whom the voice beckoned. Johnson and football star Rosey Grier were rabid Kennedy supporters and were standing next to him that fateful night, and they helped disarm the shooter. In 1984 Rafer Johnson was chosen to light the Olympic Flame at the Opening Ceremony of the Los Angeles Olympics. He also became a big supporter of Special Olympics, leading the Southern California chapter. His brother Jimmy played NFL football for 16 years with the San Francisco 49ers. His daughter, Jenny Johnson-Jordan, competed in beach volleyball at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Personal Bests: 100 – 10.3 (1957); 220y – 21.0 (1956); 400 – 47.9 (1956); 110H – 13.8 (1956); HJ – 6-2½ (1.89) (1955); PV – 13-5¼ (4.09) (1960); LJ – 25-5½ (7.76) (1956); SP – 54-11½ (16.75) (1958); DT – 172-3 (52.50) (1960); JT – 251-9 (76.73) (1960); Dec – 7982 (1960).

Olympic Results

Athlete Olympic Results Content

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