Ray Norton ’56

Ray Norton, Class of 1956

Ray Norton was considered the world’s fastest human in 1959 and 1960. He was a football and track star at Tech in the 1950s. Later he became a world-class sprinter at San Jose State College. He won two gold medals at the 1959 Pan American Games before participating in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. He later played two seasons of professional football with the San Francisco 49ers.

After graduating high school in 1955, Norton initially went to Oakland City College staying for just one year.[2] He left in 1956 for San Jose State College, where he was coached by Lloyd (Bud) Winter. He first achieved national fame by equalling the world record of 9.3 for 100 y as a college junior, in San Jose on April 12, 1958.[3][4] The next year, 1959, was an outstanding one. He won three gold medals at the 1959 Pan American Games and he tied Leamon King’s record at the 100 m at 10.1 s in San Jose on April 18.[5] His achievements in 1959 were recognised by being voted Track and Field News’s United States Men’s Athlete of the Year – the inaugural award of this honour.[6]

In 1960, Norton carried on his impressive form of the previous year by tying four world records: he equalled the 220 y record of 20.6 s in Berkeley on March 19; equalled again the 100 y record of 9.3 s in San Jose on April 2; equalled the 200 m record of 20.6 s in Philadelphia on April 30; and equalled the newly set record for the 200 m of 20.5 s in Stanford on July 2.[3] He qualified for the 100 and 200 at the 1960 Olympics by coming first in both events at the United States Olympic Trials, equalling the world record in the process in the 200 m. However, his form at the Olympics itself deserted him, most probably because of nerves, and he finished a disappointing last in both the 100 and 200 m finals.