Ex-USC Sprinter Payton Jordan Dies

Feb. 6, 2009

Payton Jordan, a sprinter on 3 of USC's NCAA championship track teams who became a legendary collegiate and Olympic coach and an accomplished master's runner, died on Thursday (Feb. 5) in Laguna Hills, Calif. He was 91.

A graduate of Pasadena (Calif.) High, Jordan sprinted on Troy's 1937-38-39 NCAA championship teams, co-captaining the 1939 squad. He ran a leg on USC's 440-yard relay team that set a world record (40.5) at the West Coast Relays in 1938. He also played football and rugby at USC.

In 1941, he won the AAU 100-meter dash title.

After 4 years in the Navy, he went on to be the head track and field coach at Redlands High, Occidental (winning league titles in each of his 10 years there, the NAIA crown in 1956 and twice placing in the Top 5 in the NCAA meet) and Stanford (1957-79). His Occidental athletes set a world record, won 4 NCAA individual titles and appeared in the Olympics. He also coached freshman football at Occidental, winning 10 conference crowns and coaching such players as Jack Kemp and Jim Mora. At Stanford, he produced 7 Olympians, 6 world record-holders and numerous NCAA champions and helped the school to a second-place NCAA finish in 1963.

He was the head coach of the U.S. team that won a record 24 medals in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, which was best remembered for the Tommie Smith/John Carlos civil rights protest and Bob Beamon's world record long jump. He was an assistant coach on the 1964 U.S. Olympic team.

Jordan also was a successful meet director, as he directed 2 of the most famous track meets held in the U.S. (the 1960 Olympic Trials and the 1962 USA-USSR dual meet, both at Stanford).

He then became one of the most outstanding senior track athletes of all time (he was an inaugural member of the USA Track & Field Masters Hall of Fame in 1997). He set world records in the 100- and 200-meter dashes for every age group from 55 to 80.

He is a member of the USC, Occidental and Stanford Athletic Halls of Fame, as well as the National Track & Field, NAIA and Mt. SAC Relays Halls of Fame. He was awarded the Dwight D. Eisenhower Fitness Award by the U.S. Sports Academy in 1999.

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