Otis Ray Norton
Personal information
Born (1937-09-22) September 22, 1937 (age 86)
Height1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Weight81 kg (179 lb)
SportSprint running
College teamSan Jose State College
ClubSanta Clara Valley Youth Village
Medal record
Representing the  United States
Pan American Games
Gold medal – first place 1959 Chicago 100 metres
Gold medal – first place 1959 Chicago 200 metres
Gold medal – first place 1959 Chicago 4×100 m

Otis Ray Norton (born September 22, 1937, in Tulsa, Oklahoma) is a former American sprinter who competed in the 1960 Olympics in Rome.[1]

Track career

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]

Pathe Highlights of Norton's 200 world record at the Penn Relays

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. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury three weeks before the games and fell out of condition during his recovery, finishing a disappointing last in both the 100 and 200 m finals. This injury was not reported in the press at the time due to Norton's hope of being drafted by the NFL in the near future.[7] Norton's failure on Thursday September 1 in the 100 m was one of such disasters that befell American favorites that day and the day was to become known as 'Black Thursday'. He tried to make amends for his failures in the individual events in the 4 × 100 m relay. The team of Frank Budd, Norton, Stone Johnson and Dave Sime finished first in a world record time of 39.4 s but were disqualified because at the first exchange from Budd to Norton, Norton started too early and the exchange happened outside the changeover box. The West German team who finished second in 39.5 s received the gold medals and became the new world record holders.[8] Norton came to the attention of the world's press at the Olympics for more than his athletic tribulations when he was seen courting his fellow American sprint star and public favorite Wilma Rudolph.[9]

100 m final at the 1960 Olympics, Norton is 3rd from right

Early in 1960, college and the social work degree he was working on. Norton continued to train at the San Clara Valley Youth Village.[10] Norton retired from athletics that season and was drafted as an American football player at the end of that year.

NFL career

Ray Norton
No. 23
Personal information
Born: (1937-09-22) September 22, 1937 (age 86)
Career information
High school:McClymonds
(Oakland, California)
College:San Jose State
NFL draft:1960 / Round: 4 / Pick: 46
Career history
Career NFL statistics
Rushing attempts:4
Rushing yards:0

Norton played halfback for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League during the 1960 and 1961 seasons.

Later life

In 1966, Norton sought the nomination to sit as a Republican for the California Assembly 17th District (Oakland and Berkeley). At the time he was working as a partner in a service agency for attorneys.[11]

Ray currently resides in Napa, California.


Norton was ranked among the best in the US and the world in both the 100 and 200 m sprint events between 1958 and 1960, according to the votes of the experts of Track and Field News.[12][13][14][15]

USA Championships

Norton was a formidable performer at the USA national championships.[16]

USA Championships
Year 100m 200m
1958 6th 5th
1959 1st 1st
1960 1st 1st


  1. ^ Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Ray Norton". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on April 18, 2020.
  2. ^ "The Speed City Era at San José State College(1940 to 1969): Norton and Poynter", San José City College.
  3. ^ a b Progression of IAAF World Records 2011 Edition, Editor Imre Matrahazi, IAAF Athletics, p 506.
  4. ^ "San Jose College Star Ties World 100-Yard Dash Mark". Jet. May 1, 1958.
  5. ^ Mt. SAC Relays Athletes Hall of Fame Profile Archived September 14, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ U.S. Men's Athletes of the Year. Track and Field News's
  7. ^ Podcast - [1] Legacy of Speed, The Legacy. Interview with Ray Norton, 9 Aug 2022
  8. ^ R Hymans (2008) The History of the United States Olympic Trials – Track & Field, USA Track & Field
  9. ^ David Maraniss (2008) Rome 1960 – Olympics That Changed The World, Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4165-3407-5
  10. ^ "Ray Norton". Eugene Register-Guard. March 17, 1960.
  11. ^ "Track Star Ray Norton Runs For Calif. Assembly". Jet. February 10, 1966.
  12. ^ "World Rankings Index—Men's 100 meters" (PDF). Track and Field News.
  13. ^ "U.S. Rankings Index—Men's 100 meters" (PDF). Track and Field News.
  14. ^ "World Rankings Index—Men's 200 meters" (PDF). Track and Field News.
  15. ^ "U.S. Rankings Index—Men's 200 meters" (PDF). Track and Field News.
  16. ^ A History Of The Results Of The National Track & Field Championships Of The USA From 1876 Through 2003 Archived March 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Track and Field News.