October 14, 1873 (Lafayette, Indiana) – September 29, 1937 (New York, New York)
Raymond Clarence Ewry was born in Lafayette, Indiana on October 14, 1873. Orphaned at the age of 5, Ewry seemed destined to spend his entire life in the tiny town. Confined to a wheelchair by polio when he was 7, Ewry exercised his legs until he could walk, and then increased their strength through his jumping regimen.
In 1890, he entered Purdue University, where he played football and captained the track team. Ewry led the Purdue team to its first national track title ever and personally broke world records in standing high jump, standing long jump and standing triple jump (also known as the ‘hop, step and jump’). He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Purdue in civil and mechanical engineering and taught engineering for a bit in the late 1890’s. He then moved to New Jersey in 1899 and became a member of the New York Athletic Club.
Ray Ewry accumulated his record total of 10 gold medals in four Olympiads without losing any of his competitions. No other Olympic athlete earned more gold medals than Ray Ewry until Michael Phelps earned his 11th in 2008. At his first Olympics, held in Paris (1900), Ewry won gold medals in all three standing jumps; and all three finals were held on the same day (July 16). At the 1904 Summer Olympics, Ewry successfully defended all three of his titles. He won three gold medals apiece in 1900 and 1904 and two each in 1906 and 1908.
All of his gold medals came in events no longer contested — the standing long jump, standing high jump and standing triple jump. Nicknamed “The Human Frog” for his incredible leaping ability Ewry was a 15-time national champion in the standing events from 1898 to 1910. He undoubtedly would have earned more titles if the standing jumps had not been dropped from the AAU program for a six-year period. Ewry’s world record in the standing long jump (3.48 meters or 11 feet 5 inches) was still standing when the event was discontinued internationally in the 1930’s.
After his Olympic career, Ewry helped design boilers for US naval vessels during WWI and served as lead engineer in the building of the aqueduct that still brings water from the Catskill Mountains to New York City. A hydraulics engineer by profession, he competed until he was almost 40; at age 39, he made a bid for the 1912 Olympic team but fell short. Ray Ewry is known by sports writers and historians as the greatest jumper in Olympic history – a remarkable accomplishment for a kid who wasn’t expected to walk. Ray Ewry died in New York City on September 29, 1937.
Ewry was elected to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983. In August of 2011, the Lafayette Urban Ministry Board of Directors dedicated and named the new youth program center after Ray Ewry. In July 2012, the Greater Lafayette community honored Ray Ewry with a monument at Lafayette Jefferson High School. All of these are well-deserved honors to Ray Ewry, Olympic Hall of Famer and local hero.
To see more pictures of Ray Ewry, click HERE.
LUM Ray Ewry Youth Program Center
In August of 2011, the Lafayette Urban Ministry Board of Directors opened the LUM Ray Ewry Youth Program Center. The LUM Ray Ewry Youth Program Center is home to the LUM After School Program, LUM 5th Quarter Summer Learning Program, and LUM Achieve! Stay in School Program.
The opening of this new facility enabled LUM to expands its programs to focus on “narrowing the academic achievement gap” within low income families in our community. Ray Ewry’s grandson, Tom Carson, from Baltimore, Maryland, attended the dedication ceremony and shared with the attendees that his grandfather would have been proud to receive this honor. Carson asked, “Can you think of any better way to celebrate Ray Ewry’s legacy than to provide young people with the tools, education and safe space they need to grow strong and succeed in life?”
The LUM Ray Ewry Youth Program Center is located at 525 N. 4th Street in downtown Lafayette in the same building as the LUM Emergency Shelter
Ray Ewry in the News:
NPR: All Things Considered — Before Leaping to 10 Gold, Athlete Beat Polio. By Mike Pesca | To hear the entire show, click HERE.
Reid Duffy Chronicles — Ray Ewry, U.S. Olympian and Purdue University Alumnus
ESPN The Magazine – Ray Ewry wasn’t even supposed to walk. By Eric Adelson | To read the full article, click HERE.
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