Biography of All-Around Athlete Richard Perry Williams Part 1

About the all-around athlete Richard Perry Williams, history and biography of the English sports prodigy.


The All-around Wonder

Who was the greatest all-around athlete of all time? It's a tremendously difficult question, but according to some sources, it just might have been a gentleman by the name of Richard Perry Williams, known to his friends and students as Doc.

Williams was born on Apr. 21, 1874, in Cornwall, England. He came to America and took a coaching job in 1899 at Tufts College in Massachusetts. Therein lies the problem in determining the accuracy of William's records. When he took the coaching job, he became, in the eyes of the Amateur Athletic Union, a professional athlete. As a result, none of his alleged accomplishments were recorded or recognized by the AAU, which was then the only widely recognized authority in such matters.

According to The Super-Athletes, a 1970 book by David P. Willoughby, Williams accomplished all of the following records, mainly between 1898 and 1910: "100-yd. dash (on three separate occasions), 9 sec. flat; 100 meters, 9 4/5 sec.; 400 meters, 46 3/5 sec.; mile run, 4 min. 25 sec. (equal to 1,500 meters in 3 min. 56 sec.); running broad jump, 26 ft. 1/2 in.; standing broad jump, with weights, 15 ft. 4 in.; standing jump backwards, with weights, 13 ft. 3 in.; Sargent (vertical) jump, 34.9 in.; running high kick, 10 ft. 3 in.; hitch and kick (i.e., a standing jump off one foot, and kick), 9 ft. 6 in.; shot put (16 lb.), 47 ft. 9 in.; shot put (12 lb.), 57 ft. 3 in.; discus throw, 142 ft. 9 in.; baseball throw, 415 ft. 3 in.; circling bases (baseball), 12 sec. flat; chinning the bar, 48 times; dipping on parallel bars, 55 times; high jump on ice skates, 4 ft. 6 in."

Willoughby goes on to dispute some of these marks, but he suggests that the most heavily disputed mark, the 9-sec. 100-ye. dash, is quite possibly accurate. Another source, John Hix's Strange as it Seems (1931), maintains that the 9.0 was accomplished "on an accurately measured track, and timed by five absolutely perfect watches, all of which showed 9 seconds for the 100 yards." Williams bested Jim Thorpe, the all-around great, in 19 track and field events, and Thorpe called him "the fastest sprinter who ever lived."

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