The gold medalists of the 1908 US Olympic 1600 meter medley relay team at Shepherd's Bush Stadium in London. After this race, Philadelphian and I-AAC member John Baxter Taylor Jr., (#23), became the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal. The holder of world's records at 440 and 660 yards, Taylor died of typhoid pneumonia on December 2, 1908, only five months after winning his gold medal and one month after his 26th birthday. Other members of the medley team, from left to right, were Nathaniel J. Cartmell, (#21) Mel Sheppard (#24), and William F. Hamilton (#25). All but Sheppard competed for the University of Pennsylvania. (Photo courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania Archives and Records Center).

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"Taylor to run as Irish-American" - The New YorkTimes, June. 4, 1908.

"Negro Runner Dead" - New York Daily Tribune, Dec. 3, 1908.

"Colored Runner Dies" - Salt Lake Herald, Dec. 3, 1908.

"Pay last respect to Taylor" - New York Daily Tribune, Dec. 6, 1908.

John Baxter Taylor Jr. – Profiles from the Ivy League's Black History

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Robert Edgren Cartoons of John Baxter Taylor Jr.

Dr. John Baxter Taylor Jr.
The First African American Olympic Gold Medalist


Dr. John Baxter Taylor Jr. (November 3, 1882 – December 2, 1908) first came to prominence as a runner for the Brown Prep School of Philadelphia, and then the University of Pennsylvania, where in 1908, he graduated from the School of Veterinary Medicine. A year earlier, in 1907, Taylor was recruited by the Irish-American Athletic Club. In 1908, he competed with fellow I-AAC members in the Olympic Games in London, becoming the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal for his participation in the 1600 meter medley relay.

Less than five months after returning from the Olympic Games in London, Taylor died of typhoid fever on December 2nd, 1908 at the age of 26. In his obituary, The New York Times called him "the world's greatest negro runner."  Many of the most prominent athletes of the I-AAC traveled from New York to attend Taylor’s funeral in Philadelphia.

In a letter to Taylor's parents, Harry Porter, fellow Irish-American Athletic Club member and acting President of the 1908 U.S. Olympic Team wrote: "It is far more as the man (than the athlete) that John Taylor made his mark. Quite unostentatious, genial, (and) kindly, the fleet-footed, far-famed athlete was beloved wherever known...As a beacon of his race, his example of achievement in athletics, scholarship and manhood will never wane, if indeed it is not destined to form with that of Booker T. Washington."

J.B. Taylor takes his mark.
The Washington Post, September 15, 1907.
John Baxter Taylor sporting the Winged Fist of the Irish-American Athletic Club in a 1907 team photo. On his right is William Keating, and his left, Geogre Bonhag. Front row (L-R); Martin Sheridan, I-AAC President P.J. Conway and John J. Flanagan.
(click to enlarge)