Milt Campbell, first African-American Olympic decathlon champ, dies

This July 26, 1952 file photo shows Milt Campbell, center, of Plainfield, N.J. getting set to clear the final hurdle to make him the winner in the fifth heat of the 110-meter hurdles event in the Olympic decathlon at Helsinki, Finland. Campbell, who became the first black to win the Olympic decathlon in 1956 and went on to play professional football and become a motivational speaker, died Friday Nov. 2, 2012 after a battle with prostate cancer. He was 78. (AP Photo/File)

Nov 3 (Reuters) – Milt Campbell, who was the first African-American to win the Olympic decathlon and went on to play professional football, has died at age 78, sports officials said on Saturday.

The U.S.A. Track & Field organization said Campbell, the decathlon gold medalist at the 1956 Summer Games, died at home in Gainesville, Georgia, on Friday. Local news reports said he had suffered from cancer and diabetes.

“Campbell will forever be known as the first African American to win a gold medal in the decathlon and one of the greatest all-around male athletes in history,” the organization said in a news release.

Campbell, originally from New Jersey, also won the Olympic silver medal in the decathlon in 1952.

He excelled in other sports and spent time in both the National Football League and the Canadian Football League as a member of the Cleveland Browns and Montreal Alouettes.

Campbell was also an All-American swimmer in high school, national class in karate and named the world’s greatest high school athlete in 1952.

A graduate of Indiana University, he was also a member of the Black Athletes’ Hall of Fame and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

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