2022 INDUCTEE - DAVID ALBRITTON
David Albritton was born in the Danville area on April 13, 1913 and as a young boy moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he developed into a world class high jumper at Ohio State. In July of 1936, Albritton set a world record at the Olympic Trials with a leap of 6-feet-9¾ inches. Albritton won a silver medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin on Aug. 2, with a jump of 6-feet-6¾. That was the same Olympics where his boyhood friend Jesse Owens won four gold medals. Albritton went on to be a successful coach and serve six terms in the Ohio House of Representatives. He died on May 14, 1994.
Olympic Hero Born in Danville
David Albritton won a silver medal in the 1936 games in Berlin
By David Elwell
The Decatur Daily
The street to the main entrance of Dunbar High School in Dayton, Ohio, is named David Albritton Drive.
The name honors a man who lived a life of success, including coaching the school’s track and field team to three straight state championships beginning in 1938.
There was much more to Albritton’s life than the state championships. He was a world-record high jumper with a silver medal from the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, an NCAA championship at Ohio State and an inductee into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1980.
Albritton also had a successful business career in Dayton and served six teams in the Ohio House of Representatives.
Few people realize that Albritton’s path to greatness started down a country road in Danville, Alabama, where he was born on April 13, 1913.
“There may have never been a greater athlete to come out of Morgan County than David Albritton,” Tom Roberts of Hartselle said. “He lived an incredible life.”
Few people in Morgan County know about Albritton. One reason is because around 1920 his family became part of “The Great Migration” of Blacks from the South to the East and Midwest.
Another reason is because Albritton’s achievements became overshadowed by those of his childhood friend Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics.
Owens was born five months after Albritton. It was about four miles from the Albritton home to Owens’ home just across the line in Lawrence County. The Owens family also made “The Great Migration” and also ended up in Cleveland. The story goes that the future track stars met in elementary school in Cleveland.
“I’ve always been a fan of track and field,” Roberts said. “I even ran track in high school. When I was growing up everybody knew about Jesse Owens.
“I had never heard of Albritton until I was watching the Olympics one year and his name came up during the high jump competition. They said he was from Danville, Alabama.”
That began a quest by Roberts to research the Albritton story. Roberts nominated him for the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame.
In addition to the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, Albritton is in the Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame and the Ohio Sports Hall of Fame.
Albritton and Owens both starred in sports at Cleveland’s East Technical High and were recruited together to Ohio State. Owens competed in several different running and jumping events. Albritton stuck to the high jump.
In June 1936 in Chicago, the 6-foot-3 Albritton, who was one of the first to use the straddle method to clear the bar, became an NCAA champion with a jump of 6-8.
A month later at the Olympic Trials in New York, Albritton and teammate Cornelius Johnson both set a world record at 6-9¾. They were the first Blacks to hold a world record in the high jump.
On Aug. 2, 1936, Albritton was competing in front of 100,000 spectators at Olympic Stadium in Berlin. The crowd included the leadership of the Nazi Germany government which saw the games as an opportunity to push its doctrine of Aryan superiority.
The high jump finals went down to three Americans – Albritton, Johnson and Delos Thurber, who was white. Johnson took the gold medal with a leap of 6-7 ¾. Albritton claimed the silver with a height of 6-6 ¾. Thurber received the bronze.
Five minutes before the medal presentation, German leader Adolf Hitler, who had been greeting all the winning athletes that day, left the stadium rather than stay to meet Johnson and Albritton. For decades the snub of the Black American athletes has been mistakenly linked to the second day of competition, when Owens won the first of his four gold medals.
While the Olympics marked the end of Owens’s track and field competition, Albritton kept competing. He was the NCAA champion again in 1937. He won AAU national championships up to 1950 at age 37.
In the 1950s, Albritton worked for the U.S. State Department helping organize athletic programs in Middle East countries. In 1960, he was elected as a Republican to his first term in the Ohio House.
Albritton died on May 14, 1994 and is buried in Dayton.
“He belongs in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame along with his best friend Jesse Owens,” Roberts said.