Olympic standout John Thomas dies at 71

John Thomas, a two-time Olympic medalist in the high jump and former world record-holder, died Tuesday. The Brockton resident was 71.

As a freshman at Boston University in 1959, Thomas became the first athlete to clear 7 feet in the high jump indoors. A nine-time national champion, Thomas competed in the 1964 US Olympic trials as a member of the Boston Athletic Association team. He was the lone African-American on the team.

“To us in that day, his name meant excellence on the world stage, and it felt personal to us,” said Thomas S. Grilk, BAA executive director. “His was the name we looked for in every track meet and two Olympics.”


Thomas won a bronze medal in the 1960 Summer Games in Rome, and a silver medal four years later in Tokyo.