Jim Hines, First to Sprint 100 Meters in Under 10 Seconds, Dies at 76
He ran a gold-medal-winning time of 9.95 seconds at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, setting an official world record that held for 15 years.
June 6: Jim Hines, who in 1968 became the first man to sprint 100 meters in under 10 seconds, and later that year won a gold medal in that distance at the Olympic Games in Mexico City with a blistering time of 9.95 seconds, a mark that stood as a world record for 15 years, died on Saturday. He was 76.
His death was confirmed in an obituary on the official Olympics website, which provided no further details.
Hines first officially broke the 10-second barrier in the 100-meter event at the United States Outdoor National Track and Field Championships in 1968 in Sacramento, which he won with a hand-timed speed of 9.9 seconds.
Hines was confident in the months before the Games. When The Oakland Tribune asked him if he thought he would win in Mexico City, he said, “Yeah, for sure.”
The 1968 Olympics are widely remembered for the civil rights protest staged by Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two African American medalists in the 200-meter race who raised their fists in solidarity with the Black Power movement while standing on the winners’ podium as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played.
Hines, who was also Black, had no comment when a reporter asked what he thought of attempts to organize a Black boycott of the 1968 Games. But in 1991 he told The Los Angeles Times that not all of the Black athletes at the Games — himself included — agreed with the protest.
“Most of us felt the best way a Black athlete could make a statement was by going and doing his best,” Hines said. “Tommie and John felt what they were doing was for all Black athletes and Black men in America. They didn’t think it out.”
At the 100-meter finals, Hines faced a field that included the Jamaican sprinter Lennox Miller and his American teammates Charles Greene and Mel Pender.
In 1974, Pender told The New York Times that Hines used his confidence to intimidate opponents.
“You’d just hear him saying, ‘I’m ready, baby,’” Pender said. “He’d say it so nonchalant, like there was no way he could lose.”
Hines considered Greene the greatest threat in the gold medal race, he told The Tribune, but added, “To tell the truth, I’m faster than he is.”
In Mexico City, Hines burst out of the blocks and ran with the wind at his back, eyes wide and teeth clenched as he tore to the front of the pack and broke the tape.
“It was the best start I had in my life, and it was the best 100 I ever raced,” he said afterward.
His 100-meter record stood until 1983, when Calvin Smith broke it with a speed of 9.93. The website for World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field, lists Usain Bolt as the current world record holder, with a time of 9.58, set in 2009 at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin.
Hines won another gold medal at the 1968 Olympics, helping his teammates Pender, Greene and Ronnie Ray Smith triumph in the 4x100 men’s relay for the United States.
After completing the 1968 track and field season, Hines, coveted for his speed, played in the American Football League. He joined the Miami Dolphins as a receiver, and in doing so gave up any further chance to compete in the Olympics, which at the time required athletes to be amateurs.
He played with Miami in 1969 but recorded only two receptions and one rush attempt during the season. The Dolphins then traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs, but he did not play in the 1970 season and soon left professional football behind.
James Ray Hines was born in Dumas, Ark., on Sept. 10, 1946, and grew up in Oakland, Calif., according to the World Athletics website. His father, Charlie, was a construction worker; his mother, Minnie West Hines, worked in a cannery, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
As a youth Hines was more interested in baseball and football than running, but his speed impressed the track coach at McClymonds High School in Oakland, who asked him to join the team.
Hines attended Texas Southern University in Houston, where he ran track. The Dolphins drafted him in 1968 even though he had not played football since high school. He delayed signing a contract with the Dolphins so that he could compete in the Olympics.
After his football career ended, Hines ran as a professional, entering meets into his 30s and sometimes struggling to make ends meet. After retiring from sports, he worked for many years as a social worker and founded a charitable organization to help people in the Oakland area.
(The New York Times)