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Claude Walton

All-American discus thrower Claude Alex Walton was born on August 1, 1913, in Marshall, Texas, to Claude Walton and Jenny V. Walton. Walton graduated from Denver, Colorado’s West High School in 1931.

After finishing high school, Walton attended the University of Colorado as a music major (piano). At 6 feet, 3 inches tall, Walton was approached by the track coach to encourage him to try out for the track team. Walton became the first African American varsity athlete at the University of Colorado, where he excelled as a discus thrower and played basketball.

While attending the University of Colorado, Walton was only one of six minority students on campus and his treatment was not always pleasant. Walton supported himself in school by working various jobs including as a hasher in the dining room at the Chi Psi fraternity house. He also found work sewing and stuffing mats for the track team, spreading sawdust in jumping pits and watering the football fields. At night, Walton played the piano in house bands at Denver and Boulder clubs. He played in the orchestra at the Airport Ballroom and for the dances of the sororities and fraternities. Unfortunately, Walton broke his ankle right before the qualifying meets for the 1936 Olympics so he could not compete in the Olympics in Germany with Jesse Owens. Nevertheless, he was named All-American after coming in second place in a 1937 national track meet, making him the first All-American athlete at The University of Colorado. Walton set the school record in the discus throw with a mark of 141-feet, 2 ½ inches. This effort earned him the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title. During his athletic career, Walton would best this mark several times. A discus throw of 157 feet at Colorado School of Mines in 1935 earned him national attention because it was the second best throw in the country at the time. Walton dominated the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and was a two-time champion. The track star left school for a steady job with the Chicago Park District (where he reached the position of associate superintendent) with just one English literature class remaining, making him ineligible for his B.A. degree and a place in the school’s Hall of Fame. Seventy-five years after Walton attended The University of Colorado, alumni and faculty members mounted a successful campaign to get him an honorary degree and entry into the university’s Hall of Fame in 2008. At ninety-four years old, he is the oldest Hall of Fame inductee.

Walton worked for the Chicago Park District for forty-eight years, eventually becoming a trustee for the department. He resides in Lombard, Illinois.

Walton passed away on March 24, 2014.

Accession Number

A2008.122

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/4/2008 |and| 11/22/2008

Last Name

Walton

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

West High School

University of Colorado Boulder

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Claude

Birth City, State, Country

Marshall

HM ID

WAL11

Favorite Season

Winter

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Denver, Colorado

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/1/1913

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

3/24/2014

Short Description

Discus thrower Claude Walton (1913 - 2014 ) was the first All-American athlete at the University of Colorado, twice winning the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title. Seventy-five years after Walton attended the University of Colorado, alumni and faculty members mounted a successful campaign to get him an honorary degree and entry into the university’s Hall of Fame in 2008.

Employment

Chi Psi Fraternity House

Chicago Park District

Favorite Color

None

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Claude Walton's interview pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Claude Walton describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Slating of Claude Wilson's interview pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Claude Walton lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Claude Walton describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Claude Walton describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Claude Walton talks about his parents' extended families

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Claude Walton describes his parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Claude Walton recalls his mother's work

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Claude Walton talks about his mother's coin collection

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Claude Walton recalls his family's social interactions

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Claude Walton describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Claude Walton remembers his early religious experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Claude Walton describes his early neighborhood in east Denver, Colorado

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Claude Walton remembers the music of his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Claude Walton talks about his high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Claude Walton recalls joining the high school basketball and track teams

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Claude Walton remembers the Great Depression, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Claude Walton remembers the Great Depression, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Claude Walton recalls his early aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Claude Walton talks about the lack of mentors in his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Claude Walton remembers his early recreational activities

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Claude Walton talks about boxers Joe Louis and Jack Johnson

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Claude Walton remembers playing basketball at West High School in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Claude Walton recalls facing discrimination while playing sports

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Claude Walton recalls his move to Casper, Wyoming

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Claude Walton talks about his decision to attend the University of Colorado Boulder

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Claude Walton recalls playing music at a brothel

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Claude Walton remembers his decision to study music at the University of Colorado Boulder

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Claude Walton describes his track and field experiences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Claude Walton recalls being the only African American athlete in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Claude Walton talks about academic performance in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Claude Walton recalls attending the University of Colorado Boulder

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Claude Walton remembers Duke Ellington

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Claude Walton describes the 1936 Summer Olympic tryouts

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Claude Walton talks about his move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Claude Walton describes his athletic accomplishments

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Claude Walton remembers U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Claude Walton talks about Gil Cruter

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Claude Walton recalls his sports accolades

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Claude Walton describes the African American students at the University of Colorado Boulder

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Claude Walton describes his first assignments at the Chicago Park District

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Claude Walton recalls integrating the Chicago Park District

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Claude Walton talks about segregation in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Claude Walton describes the early days of Washington Park in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Claude Walton talks about celebrity intructors at Washington Park

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Claude Walton describes the Chicago Park District's training system

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Claude Walton talks about the square dance lessons at the Chicago Park District

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Claude Walton describes the facilities at Washington Park in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Claude Walton talks about the negative impact of gang activity in parks

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Claude Walton talks about the politics of the Chicago Park District

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Claude Walton recalls the lack of park services for Chicago's African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Claude Walton describes the development of Chicago's recreational facilities

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Claude Walton recalls taking the Chicago Park District civil service tests

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Claude Walton remembers the 1959 Pan American Games

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Claude Walton recalls his promotions at the Chicago Park District, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Claude Walton describes his promotions at the Chicago Park District, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Claude Walton reflects upon his life

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Claude Walton reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Claude Walton describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Claude Walton describes his family

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Claude Walton talks about his philosophy in life

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Claude Walton describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Claude Walton narrates his photographs