Class of 1937
The triple jump has always been one of the most challenging and technical events in track and field and, in 2019, if a high school boy can get up to 49 feet or better, he’s likely to contend for a state title – and often All-American honors. It’s a little mind-boggling then, to realize that in 1936 – yes, 83 years ago – a Baker, Louisiana prep named Billy Brown was triple jumping that distance, while setting records and making the 1936 Berlin Olympic team as a 17-year-old. He was a horizontal jumping legend and, had not both the 1940 and 1944 Games been cancelled due to World War II, he might well have captured multiple Olympic medals.
Brown was an astonishing jumper (and pretty good sprinter) from the get-go, tripling 44-4.5 as a freshman in 1934 and winning the AAU Juniors. He enjoyed a huge improvement as a sophomore, all the way out to a prep national record 48-2.75. Brown swept the horizontals in his state meet (23-7.25 LJ), repeated at AAU Juniors and was 2nd at AAU Seniors – as a sophomore!
As a junior, Brown improved his PRs to 24-3.5 and 49-2 (two more HSRs in TJ) and was unbeaten until the Olympic Trials – when he took the third spots for the TJ team. He was the youngest U.S. athlete in Berlin at 17 years old. Unfortunately, that was also his finish in TJ qualifying as he had a rare off day and barely got over 47. Brown didn’t let that disappointment carry over to his senior year. He was unbeaten in prep and AAU competition and improved his PRs to 24-8.25 and 49-7.25 – the latter being his final HSR that lasted 26 years.
Brown went on to become an all-time great as a collegian at LSU, setting school records in the 100, 200, LJ and TJ, winning nine SEC titles, an NCAA LJ title in 1941 and numerous All-American honors. He also continued to do well at the AAU level. Unfortunately, there would be no second Olympics for Brown as World War II forced cancellation of both the 1940 and 1944 Games. He joined the Navy upon graduation from LSU and later had a long business career with Kaiser Aluminum.
Did You Know?
Sprinting and jumping for the LSU tigers, Billy Brown was the leading scorer in the NCAA outdoor championships in both his junior (1940) and senior (1941) years.