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Entries : Ralph Metcalfe: Champion Sprinter and Free-Thinking Politician
Ralph Metcalfe: Champion Sprinter and Free-Thinking Politician

Ralph Metcalfe: Champion Sprinter and Free-Thinking Politician

After excelling as a student and a sprinter at Chicago's Tilden Technical High School and Marquette University (in Milwaukee, Wisconsin), Ralph H. Metcalfe competed in the 1932 and 1936 Olympics, held in Los Angeles and Berlin, respectively. In 1932, Metcalfe won the bronze medal in the 200-meter dash and took the silver in the 100-meter dash, losing to Eddie Tolan by a mere two inches. In 1936, Metcalfe again finished second in the 100-meter dash, with Jesse Owens winning the gold. Metcalfe teamed with Owens to win a gold in the 400-meter relay that year, helping to set a world record.

Following his athletic achievements, Metcalfe became the track coach and a political science instructor at Xavier University in New Orleans. He returned to Chicago and, in 1952, became a Democratic committeeman for the Third Ward; Metcalfe was elected alderman in 1955 and was reelected three times. In 1970, Metcalfe won a seat in the Ninety-second U.S. Congress, succeeding his mentor, the late William Dawson. Metcalfe began his career as a Daley loyalist but later broke with the mayor, becoming a strong and independent voice for his mostly African American constituency who felt ignored by the workings of the Daley machine. Metcalfe was elected to four terms in Congress and served until his death in October 1978.