February 20, 1926 |
Champaign, Illinois, U.S.
|Political party||Populist (1984–1996)
American Freedom (2010–
|Alma mater||University of Illinois, Urbana-
|Sport||Pole vault, decathlon|
|Club||LAAC, Los Angeles|
Robert Eugene "Bob" Richards (born February 20, 1926) is a versatile athlete who made three US Olympic Teams in two events: the 1948, 1952, and 1956 Summer Olympics as a pole vaulter, and also as a decathlete in 1956.
In the United States presidential election, 1984 Richards ran for President of the United States on the newly formed far-right Populist Party ticket. He and running mate Maureen Salaman earned 66,324 votes. Four years later, that same party ran white nationalist David Duke for president.
Richards was the second man to pole vault 15 ft (4.57 m). While a student at the University of Illinois, Richards tied for the national collegiate pole vault title and followed that with 20 national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles, including 17 in the pole vault and three in the decathlon. The first man to clear 15 feet was Dutch Warmerdam, who set the world record of 4.77 m (15 ft 7 3⁄4 in) in 1942, long before Richards came into his prime. While Richards was the dominant vaulter of his time, he never achieved the world record.
Richards later became involved in promoting physical fitness and continued to vault in his later years. He was the first athlete to appear on the front of Wheaties cereal boxes in 1958 (though not the first depicted on all parts of the packaging), and also was the first Wheaties spokesman, setting up the Wheaties Sports Federation, which encouraged participation in Olympic sports. Richards had four sons who were also pole vaulters: Brandon, held the national high school record at 18'2" for fourteen years from 1985; Tom won the CIF California State Meet in 1988; Bob, Junior was second in the same meet in 1968 and later ranked #7 in the USA in 1973.
Ordained in 1946 as a minister in the Church of the Brethren (which led to his being nicknamed the "Vaulting Vicar" or the "Pole Vaulting Parson"). He is the only male two-time Olympic gold medal winner in the pole vault (1952 and 1956), thus also the only man to defend his Olympic title. He also won a bronze medal in 1948, so he won three Olympic medals in the pole vault. All of his feats were equalled by female pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, completed in 2012. He also was 13th in the 1956 decathlon. He was elected to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983 and the United States National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975. As he aged, Richards continued participating in Track and Field in a variety of events, particularly throwing events. He was one of the first regular participants in the origins of what now has become Masters athletics.
Richards and his wife now operate the Olympian Ranch in Gordon, Texas, breeding miniature horses. In 1957 the actor Hal Stalmaster played Richards as a teenager in an episode of the ABC anthology series Cavalcade of America.
Richards was inducted as a Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and awarded the Order of Lincoln (the State's highest honor) by the Governor of Illinois in 2000 in the area of Sports. Richards is referenced in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary "Survive and Advance", for the impact he had on former N.C. State coach Jim Valvano. Valvano cites hearing Richards speak when he was a teen and the motivational messages he implored. He was inducted into the Texas Track and Field Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Class of 2017.
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|Party political offices|
|New political party||Populist nominee for President of the United States