Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Metcalfe grew up in Chicago and graduated high school from Tilden Tech in 1930.  He accepted a track scholarship to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and equaled the record of 10.3 seconds in the 100 m on a number of occasions, as well as equaling the 200 m record of 20.6 seconds.
He became the first man to win the NCAA 200 m title three times consecutively.  At the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, he virtually dead-heated with his rival Eddie Tolan, with the gold medal awarded to Tolan only after extended study of the photograph; both recorded a time of 10.38 seconds in the 100 meters. Metcalfe also earned a bronze medal at these games, in the 200 meters.He competed again at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, and again took silver in the 100 meters, this time behind four-time gold medalist Owens. They won gold in the 4×100 meter relay with Foy Draper and Frank Wykoff; the U. Won by 1.1 seconds over runner-up Italy, and Germany took bronze.
Fierce rivals on the track, Metcalfe and Owens (19131980) became lifelong friends. Metcalfe was convinced to the end of his life that the 100 m should have been awarded as a tie between him and Eddie Tolan: I have never been convinced I was defeated. It should have been a tie Film evidence and that of observers of the race seem to support Metcalfe's verdict.
The AAU later changed their rules to have the winner being the first athlete to cross the line not merely breast the tape. It was the latter that Tolan was judged to have done first.The AAU went further and awarded the race as a tie but the International Olympic Committee has never agreed to this change. They maintain the result stands because the judges decided in line with the rules at the time that Eddie Tolan's entire torso had passed the finish line on the ground before Metcalfe's.  In addition, even though credited with same time as Tolan, 10.3 s, a time that equaled the then world record, Metcalfe's time was never ratified as a world record. In the 200 m, Metcalfe was embroiled in further controversy. Observers at the time claimed the marking for his starting holes were 34 feet behind where they should have been. Others claimed this discrepancy was the result of an optical illusion because George Simpson in the lane outside cut his holes on the outside of his lane whilst Metcalfe used the inside of his. In any case, Metcalfe was offered a re-run but refused because he feared the United States would not be able to repeat its 1-2-3. Metcalfe (center) with Jesse Owens and Frank Wykoff on the deck of the S. Manhattan as the team sailed for Germany in 1936. In the sprint relay, Metcalfe became involved in a controversy not of his own making. Originally the United States chose for the relay the athletes who had come 4th to 7th in the trials. Two of these athletes, Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman, were replaced with Metcalfe and Jesse Owens allegedly because they were Jewish. Metcalfe and Owens were undoubtedly the superior sprinters but they had not done the relay baton practice and the switch went against established practice. Metcalfe was United States Champion at 100 m between 1932-34 (and was 2nd in 1935-36) and at 200 m between 1932-36. In all he won 16 national titles at the AAU Championships, NCAA Championships and Final Olympic Trials. Metcalfe 16 times broke or equaled world record times at various distances. However, only 5 of these were ever officially ratified by the athletics governing body, the IAAF. The ratified times were:.
Equaled the world record for 100 m of 10.3 s on. 12 August 1933 in Budapest, Hungary. 15 September 1934 in Nishinomiya, Japan. 23 September 1934 in Darien, Japan. Equaled the world record for 200 m (straight course) of 20.6 s on 12 August 1933 in Budapest, Hungary.Broke the world record for the 4 × 100 m relay with 39.8 s on 9 August 1936 (United States 1936 Olympics team of Jesse Owens-Metcalfe-Foy Draper-Frank Wykoff). After earning his bachelor's degree at Marquette in 1936, Metcalfe completed a master's degree at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 1939. Metcalfe taught political science and coached track at Xavier University in New Orleans, and served in the transportation corps of U. Army in World War II, rising to the rank of first lieutenant and awarded the Legion of Merit medal. After the war, he moved back to Chicago and later headed the state's athletic commission.
In 1955, Metcalfe won the first of four elections as an alderman representing the South Side of Chicago. He ran for an open seat in Congress in 1970 as a Democrat and was easily elected from Illinois' first district. The seat had been filled for 28 years by William L. Dawson, who was retiring at age 84 due to poor health and then died less than a week after the 1970 election. Metcalfe was a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in 1971 and later was noted for breaking ranks with Chicago mayor Richard Daley after incidents of police brutality.Metcalfe was seeking a fifth term in 1978 when he died at his Chicago home on October 10 of an apparent heart attack at age 68. Metcalfe is interred at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Alsip, southwest of Chicago. A federal office building in Chicago at 77 W.
Was named for him upon its completion in 1991. Metcalfe was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975 and named a member of the President's Commission on Olympic Sports.Metcalfe married Gertrude Pemberton on June 9, 1937 in Dallas, Texas. They divorced in Los Angeles, California in 1943. Metcalfe married Madalynne Fay Young in 1947 and they had one son.  He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Alpha Sigma Nu honor society,  and the Corpus Christi parish in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. He converted to Catholicism in 1932, while an undergraduate at Marquette.
Ralph Metcalfe achieved worldwide fame as an Olympic athlete years before he became involved in politics on Chicagos South Side. Like William Dawson, his predecessor from the predominantly black, urban Illinois district, Metcalfe rose through the ranks of the Chicago Democratic political machine before winning a seat in Congress. However, Metcalfe differentiated himself from other machine loyalists of the period by elevating race above local party interests. Metcalfes willingness to risk his political career to follow his conscience won him loyal support among the majority of his constituents and his black colleagues in the House. Im willing to pay whatever political consequences I have to, but frankly, I dont think there will be any.
In the caucus we have decided to put the interests of black people firstabove all else, and that means even going against our party or our political leaders if black interests dont coincide with their positions. Ralph Harold Metcalfe was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 29, 1910, to Marie Attaway, a seamstress, and Clarence Metcalfe, a stockyard worker.2 As a child, he moved with his family to the South Side of Chicago. After graduating from Chicagos Tilden Technical School in 1930, Metcalfe attended Marquette University where he received a bachelor of philosophy degree in 1936. He completed his education by earning an M. In physical education from the University of Southern California in 1939. During high school Metcalfe began a long and successful career as a track athlete.
I was told by my coach that as a black person Id have to put daylight between me and my nearest competitor, Metcalfe recalled. I forced myself to train harder so I could put that daylight behind me. 3 Metcalfe became a household name in the United States when he medaled in the 1932 and 1936 Olympics.
During the infamous Berlin Games of 1936, Metcalfe and Jesse Owens led the American 400meter relay team to a world record, much to the dismay of German onlookers, especially Adolf Hitler, who expected the German athletes to prove their superiority by sweeping all the track and field events. 4 Years later, Owens credited Metcalfe with helping his black teammates overcome the many distractions they faced. He said we were not there to get involved in the political situation. We were there for one purposeto represent our country.Following his retirement from competitive sports in 1936, Metcalfe taught political science and coached track at Xavier University in New Orleans until 1946. He also served in the U. Army Transportation Corps from 1942 to 1945, where he rose to the rank of first lieutenant and earned the Legion of Merit for his physical education training program. He then headed the Illinois State Athletic Commission from 1949 to 1952. In 1947, Metcalfe married Madalynne Fay Young. The couple had one child, Ralph Metcalfe, Jr.
In 1952, Metcalfe began his political career by winning election as Chicagos Third Ward Democratic committeeman. Quickly earning the respect and trust of Richard J. Daley, Chicagos mayor and leader of the citys powerful political machine, Metcalfe secured more prominent positions in the local government.
After becoming an alderman in 1955, he was later selected by Daley to serve as president pro tempore of the Chicago city council. 7 When the powerful but aging Representative William L. Dawson, a longtime member of the Democratic machine, decided to retire from the House, he chose Metcalfe to replace him in Congress. In the Democratic primary, Metcalfe faced A. (Sammy) Rayner, an alderman and an undertaker, who blamed the predominantly white power structure of Chicago for the problems facing many African Americans in the urban district.
Running on a platform of law and order, Metcalfe defended his ties to Daleys machine, reassuring voters that the political organization is structured in a businesslike manner to get things done and, therefore, it is an asset. 8 With the backing of Daley and Dawson, Metcalfe defeated Rayner and went on to win election to the House easily, with 91 percent of the vote against Republican Jayne Jennings, a schoolteacher, a few days before Dawsons death in November 1970.9 Metcalfe entered the House on January 3, 1971, and was assigned to the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries and the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee; he served on both committees throughout his tenure in the House. Metcalfes appointment to the influential Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee marked the first time an AfricanAmerican Member served on the panel in the 20th century.
10 The Illinois Representative also served on the Post Office and Civil Service Committee during the 95th Congress (19771979). Metcalfes legislative focus in the House, like his predecessors, was assisting the residents on Chicagos South Side.
Using his experience as chairman of the Chicago city councils housing committee, Metcalfe introduced legislation to increase the availability of home improvement loans and federal housing programs to benefit the many impoverished people living in his district. Defending the need for such measures, Metcalfe asserted, It is essential that individuals living in our cities, or individuals of low or moderate income residing in rural areas, be provided with the means and incentive to remain in their communities.
11 As a strong proponent of gun control, the Illinois Representative introduced legislation to prohibit the manufacture and sale of handguns, stating, The people in the First Congressional District of Illinois know the terror of uncontrolled handguns. They know that the only solution to this epidemic of violent handgun crime is an absolute ban on the manufacture, sale, and distribution of these weapons throughout the United States. Throughout his House career, Metcalfe also advanced issues that extended beyond his congressional district. He drafted provisions to the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act to combat discrimination in the industry present more than a decade after the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.13 Concerned about the quality of health care for minorities, the Illinois Representative criticized the Richard M.Nixon administration for failing to support legislation aimed at improving health services for those most in need and exhorted his House colleagues to design a health care package which adequately meets the needs and aspirations of poor and minority groups. 14 Drawing on his own athletic experience, Metcalfe cosponsored the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, which provided federal funding for American Olympic athletes and increased opportunities for minorities, women, and disabled Americans to participate in amateur sports. Although his legislative agenda focused heavily on domestic issues, Metcalfe had an interest in U.
As chairman of the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Subcommittee on the Panama Canal, he advocated more opportunities for education, housing, and jobs in the Canal Zone and worked to secure the passage of legislation that eventually ceded American control of the Panama Canal. 16 Like other AfricanAmerican Members of the era, Metcalfe called for increased U.
Involvement in African affairs, especially in South Africa. In 1975 he introduced a measure to cease American support for South Africa to protest its governmentsanctioned policy of racial discrimination.Metcalfe praised the recommendations of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) for the South African region, which included ending apartheid in South Africa and instituting majority rule in Rhodesia. In order to insure [sic] that the tremendous potential for violent conflict in southern Africa, a potential born of peoples desire to throw off the yoke of oppression and racism, is not realized, it is imperative that the United States follow the lead of the OAU and reassess its own policies in Southern Africa. Metcalfe received national attention when he publicly broke ranks in 1972 with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, his friend and political ally, and the Democratic machine. Outraged by what he perceived as Daleys lenient stance on police brutality in the black communityspecifically with regard to a violent raid of the local Black Panthers and two incidents that involved the harassment of black dentistsMetcalfe declared, the Mayor doesnt understand what happens to black men on the streets of Chicago, and probably never will. 18 Metcalfe used his position on the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee to conduct public hearings for victims and witnesses of police brutality and organized a citizens group to lobby the city government for reforms. 19 Ive always spoken out for my peoplefor what I believe but in the past Ive tried to remedy situations on a casebycase basis, trying to work within the party or official government circles, Metcalfe said. In the brutality field, however, I cant just stand by while each and every case is investigated. I want the system changed. 20 When Metcalfe backed William Singer, Daleys opponent in the 1975 Chicago mayoral primary, the powerful political boss retaliated by depriving the Illinois Representative of his Third Ward patronage positions and orchestrating a challenge in the 1976 Democratic primary for Chicagos South Side congressional seat. 21 In a fight against what he termed a political dictatorship in Chicago, Metcalfe asserted, There is only one issue. The right of black people to choose their own public officials and not have them picked from downtown. 22 With the outspoken support of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)an organization Metcalfe helped found in 1971he handily defeated Daley aide Erwin A. France with more than 70 percent of the vote in the bitterly contested primary. This is a peoples victory, the Chicago Representative declared. 23 After reapportionment in 1972, the metropolitan district continued to boast a predominantly black population, even with the significant change in boundaries that included a largely white neighborhood surrounding the University of Chicago.
As with the two previous general elections for the Chicago congressional district, Metcalfe faced little Republican opposition, and he easily earned a seat in the 95th Congress. With the death of Mayor Daley in December of 1976, tensions eased between Metcalfe and the Chicago machine.
25 However, Metcalfe called attention to racial discrimination in Chicago and also continued to try to improve police service for his constituents residing in impoverished neighborhoods. If we want to strengthen and rebuild Chicago, then we must help the people who are sticking it out in the inner city to survive. 26 During the 95th Congress, Metcalfe demonstrated his determination to recognize the accomplishments of African Americans, sponsoring several resolutions to declare February as Black History Month.
Metcalfes congressional career ended when he died suddenly of an apparent heart attack on October 10, 1978, only a month before his almost certain reelection to a fifth term. Representative Louis Stokes of Ohio praised Metcalfes dedication to his district and the CBC. Ralph was a man who had the ability to inspire people, Stokes recalled.The type of individual who, as you came to know him, you would have to admire. 1Ralph Harold Metcalfe, 14 October 1978, Washington Post: A16. Porter, Metcalfe, Ralph Harold, American National Biography 15 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999): 386 (hereinafter referred to as ANB). ANB lists Metcalfes mothers first name as Marie, whereas other sources indicate her first name was Mayme. Ralph Metcalfe, 11 October 1978, Chicago Tribune: D2.
Metcalfe Dies, 11 October 1978, Washington Post: C8; Darius L. Metcalfe, in Jessie Carney Smith, ed. Notable Black American Men Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Research, Inc. 1999: 803804 (hereinafter referred to as NBAM); Porter, Metcalfe, Ralph Harold, ANB.
For more information on the 1936 Olympics, see Alan Gould, Metcalfe Runs Second to Ohio Negro in Sprint Finals, 4 August 1936, Washington Post: X15; and Shirley Povich, What Price Olympic Glory? Americas Sports Public Demands, 16 August 1936, Washington Post: B5. 5Dorothy Collin, Jesse Owens Recalls a Beloved Teammate, 11 October 1978, Chicago Tribune: 1. 8Michael Kilian, Daley Choices Win Key Tests, 18 March 1970, Chicago Tribune: 1; Norman C. Miller, A Primary in Chicago Between Two Blacks Is Big Test for Daley, 24 February 1970, Wall Street Journal: 1.10Charles Stewart III, Committee Hierarchies in the Modernizing House, 18751947, American Journal of Political Science 36 (1992): 845846. 11Congressional Record, House, 93rd Cong. (30 April 1974): 1243712438; Congressional Record, House, 93rd Cong. 12Congressional Record, House, 94th Cong. (26 February 1975): 4491; Christopher, Black Americans in Congress: 265.
13Congressional Record, House, 94th Cong. (17 December 1975): 41339; Congressional Record, House, 94th Cong.(28 January 1976): 1357; Porter, Metcalfe, Ralph Harold, ANB. 14Congressional Record, House, 93rd Cong. (31 January 1973): 28452846; C.
Gerald Fraser, Wider Health Care Urged for Blacks, 12 December 1971, New York Times: 77. 15Congressional Record, House, 95th Cong.16Congressional Record, House, 95th Cong. (18 April 1978): 1045310454; Porter, Metcalfe, Ralph Harold, ANB; Ralph Metcalfe, Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 26 (Detroit, MI: Gale Group, 2000).
17Congressional Record, House, 94th Cong. Black Leaders Rebellion Is Hurting Daley Machine, 10 May 1972, New York Times: 36; Nathaniel Sheppard, Jr.
19 Seeking House Seat Vacated by Chicago Mayor, 8 July 1983, New York Times: A7. 19Congressional Record, House, 93rd Cong.
(6 December 1973): 3992939930; Christopher, Black Americans in Congress: 264. 20Police Acts Create New Daley Critic, 7 May 1972, Washington Post: A14.
21As was the case with other machine politicians, Metcalfe retained his local leadership positions in Chicago until his death. Metcalfe Dies; Barbara Reynolds, Track Star Metcalfe Running Hard, 7 March 1976, Chicago Tribune: 28.
22Vernon Jarrett, Ralph Metcalfe Comes Out Fighting, 23 January 1976, Chicago Tribune: A4; Barbara Reynolds, Metcalfe Seeks New Term, Rips Dictator, 12 November 1975, Chicago Tribune: 3. 23Barbara Reynolds, Metcalfe Victory Seen as Freedom From Daley, 17 March 1976, Chicago Tribune: 3; Reynolds, Track Star Metcalfe Running Hard; Vernon Jarrett, France Has Bitter Taste of Politics, 9 April 1976, Chicago Tribune: A4; 5 Congressmen Here to Aid Rep.
Metcalfe, 15 February 1976, Chicago Tribune: 20. 25Ralph Metcalfe Is Dead at 68, 11 October 1978, Los Angeles Times: E11.
26The Chicago Tribune printed an article based on a speech by Metcalfe that outlined his goals for improvements in law enforcement in Chicago. See Police Protection Is Everyones Right, 11 June 1977, Chicago Tribune: S10.27Congressional Record, House, 95th Cong. The item "AFRICAN AMERICAN OLYMPIC ATHLETE, RALPH METCALFE 1934 photo MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY" is in sale since Sunday, November 15, 2020.
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