Tommie Smith - The Xernona Clayton Award of Distinction

Tommie Smith began life quietly, born to Richard and Dora Smith on June 6, 1944 in Clarksville, Texas, the seventh of twelve children. Today, his historic achievements make him a nationally and internationally distinguished figure in African American history. He is the only man in the history of track and field to hold eleven world records simultaneously.

During the historic 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Tommie Smith broke the world and Olympic record with a time of 19.83 seconds and became the 200-meter Olympic champion. As Smith and bronze-medal winner John Carlos stood on the victory podium, each raised a clenched fist covered in a black leather glove in a historic stand for black power, liberation and solidarity. This courageous, unexpected worldwide event propelled Smith into the spotlight as a human rights spokesman, activist and symbol of African American pride at home and abroad.

Tommie Smith’s courageous leadership, talent, and activism have earned him well-deserved acclaim and awards, including The Peace Abby Courage of Conscience Award, the International Peace Prize in Dresden, Germany, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYS, and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for his autobiography, Silent Gesture. On April 1, 2012, Smith was inducted into the California Sports Hall Of Fame and later into The United States Olympic Hall of Fame in 2019.

Since the games of the 19th Olympiad, Smith has enjoyed a distinguished career as a coach, educator and activist. Smith served as a faculty member at Santa Monica College in California for 27 years, teaching and coaching while also serving on academic committees. Smith has dedicated a total of 37 years to educating and teaching our children. In June of 2005, he retired and moved to Georgia, continuing to travel worldwide giving himself to all.