Lee Evans, the record-setting sprinter who wore a black beret in a sign of protest at the 1968 Olympics, died on Wednesday. He was 74.
USA Track and Field (USATF) confirmed Evans’ death.
The San Jose Mercury News reported that Evans’ family had started a fundraiser in hopes of bringing him back to the US from Nigeria, where he coached track, to receive medical care after he suffered a stroke last week.
Evans was the first athlete to break 44 seconds in the 400 metres, shattering the world record two win gold at the Mexico City Olympics.
His victory came shortly after his teammates, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, were sent home from the Olympics for raising their fists on the medals stand.
In later interviews, Evans said an official warned him not do anything similar.
He took a different approach, wearing a black beret to show support for the Black Power movement.
Like Smith and Carlos, Evans was a college star on the San Jose State ‘Speed City’ teams.
He was also a high-profile member of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, which called attention to racial inequality and oppression and spearheaded the protests at the 1968 games.
“His legacy of contributions to sports and the struggle for social justice is indelible and enduring,” tweeted Harry Edwards, the architect of the movement.
After running the 43.86, Evans anchored the US 4×400 team to a world record of 2 minutes, 56.16 seconds.
His 400m record stood for almost 20 years. The relay record stood for 24 years.
Evans won five US titles at 400m and is a member of both the USATF and US Olympic Hall of Fames.
After he stopped running competitively, Evans spent time in Africa working for the United Nations.
He enjoyed a lengthy career as a coach, training athletes in 20 countries.
The Mercury News said he was coaching high school track in Lagos until his death.