Robert Garrett

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Robert Garrett
Garrett lancio disco 1896.jpg
Personal information
Born May 24, 1875
Baltimore County, Maryland
Died April 25, 1961(1961-04-25) (aged 85)
Baltimore, Maryland
Height 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Weight 81 kg (179 lb; 12.8 st)
Sport
Country  United States
Sport Athletics

Robert Garrett (May 24, 1875[citation needed] – April 25, 1961) was an American athlete. He was the first modern Olympic champion in discus throw and shot put.

Biography[edit]

Born in Baltimore County, Maryland, Garrett came from a wealthy family and studied in Princeton University. He excelled in track and field athletics as an undergraduate, and was captain of the Princeton track team in both his junior and senior years. Garrett was primarily a shot-putter, though he also competed in the jumping events. When he decided to compete in the first modern Olympics in 1896, Professor William Milligan Sloane suggested he should also try the discus.

They consulted classical authorities to develop a drawing and Garrett hired a blacksmith to make a discus. It weighed nearly 30 pounds (14 kg) and it was impossible to throw any distance, so he gave up on the idea. Garrett paid for his own and three classmates' (Francis Lane third in 100 m, Herbert Jamison second in 400 m, and Albert Tyler second in pole vault) way to Athens to compete in the Olympics. When he discovered that a real discus weighs less than five pounds, he decided to enter the event for fun.

1896 Olympics[edit]

The Greek discus throwers were true stylists. Each throw, as they spun and rose from a classical Discobolus stance, was beautiful.[attribution needed] Not so with Garrett, who seized the discus in his right hand and swinging himself around and around, the way the 16 pound hammer is usually thrown, threw the discus with tremendous force. Garrett's first two throws were embarrassingly clumsy. Instead of sailing parallel to the ground, the discus turned over and over and narrowly missed hitting some of the audience. Both foreigners and Americans laughed at his efforts and he joined in the general merriment. His final throw, however, punctuated with a loud grunt, sent the discus sailing 19 centimetres (7.5 in) beyond the best Greek competitor's Panagiotis Paraskevopoulos's mark to 29.15 metres (95 ft 8 in).

American spectator Burton Holmes wrote: "All were stupefied. The Greeks had been defeated at their own classic exercise. They were overwhelmed by the superior skill and daring of the Americans, to whom they ascribed a supernatural invincibility enabling them to dispense with training and to win at games which they had never before seen." The performances were remarkable. According to James Connolly, in five of the track and field events won by Americans, they had not had a single day of outdoor practice since the previous fall.

Garrett also won the shot put with a distance of 11.22 metres (36 ft 10 in) and finished second in the high jump (tied equally with James Connolly at 1.65 metres (5 ft 5 in)) and second in the long jump (with a jump of 6.00 metres (19 ft 8 in)).

In the 1984 NBC miniseries, The First Olympics: Athens 1896, he was portrayed by Hunt Block. In the second episode, Garrett was portrayed as being a participant in the first Olympic Marathon, which, in reality, he wasn't.

1900 Olympics[edit]

In the 1900 Olympics, Garrett placed third in the shot put and the standing triple jump. His bronze medal in the shot put was unusual, as he refused to compete in the final due to it being held on a Sunday. His qualifying mark was good enough to place him in third. He also competed in the discus throw again, but due to a poorly planned course was unable to set a legal mark as his discus throws all hit trees.

Garrett was the IC4A shot put champion in 1897.

In addition, Garrett was a member of the Tug-of-War team at the 1900 Olympics that was forced to withdraw because three of its six members were engaged in the hammer throw final.

Life after Olympics[edit]

Garrett later became a banker and financier at his grandfather's historic mercantile firm Robert Garrett and Sons, founded 1819, with its Baltimore Maryland headquarters in a distinctive 13-story "skyscraper", designed by noted local architects J.B. Noel Wyatt and William G. Nolting in 1913 at the southwest corner of South and Water Streets in the city's financial district of the downtown area. (The firm endured until 1974, and in 1981 the building was purchased by noted local law firm Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothmann, Hoffberger and Hollander. They became a careful historic restoration of its many fine appointments as the biggest single restoration project in the city at that time and was rededicated in January 1984) and donator to science, especially to history and archeology.[clarification needed] He helped to organize and finance an archaeological expedition to Syria, led by Dr. John M. T. Finney. From 1932 to 1939, he was involved with the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and Its Vicinity both helping to fund the excavations and working on them. His hobby was collecting Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. In 1942, Garrett donated to Princeton University his collection of more than 11,000 manuscripts, including the Aksum Scrolls and sixteen Byzantine Greek manuscripts, containing rare and beautiful examples of illuminated Byzantine art for the use of scholars. He was for many years an enthusiastic and devoted alumnus and served as trustee of Princeton University and also on the governing board of The Baltimore Museum of Art, founded in 1914, by his aunt Mary Elizabeth Garrett, (1857-1915), a prominent civic activist, philanthropist and suffragette in her own right, and initially located in her former mansion at the southwest corner of Cathedral and West Monument Streets [facing West Mount Vernon Place and the home of her parents at the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion, before its 1929 move north to its present home in a John Russell Pope-designed building on Art Museum Drive near the Homewood Campus of Johns Hopkins University.

Garrett had amassed this collection of historical volumes of Western and non-Western manuscripts, fragments, and scrolls, originating from Europe, the Near East, Africa, Asia and Mesoamerica, ca. 1340 B.C. – A.D. 1900s. He inherited his collecting interest from his father, Thomas Harrison Garrett (known as T. Harrison Garrett), Princeton Class of 1868. After his father's sudden death in 1888, young Robert Garrett spent the following two and a half years traveling extensively with his mother and two brothers, Horatio and John, in Europe and the Near East. During his travels Garrett developed a particular interest in manuscripts and began collecting. He used the text Universal Paleography: or, Facsimiles of Writing of All Nations and Periods by J. B. Silvester (by Sir Frederic Madden, London, 1949–50) as his guide for collecting primary examples of every known type of script.

Garrett was a leader in the development of public recreational facilities in Baltimore and a civic athletic league which later merged with a similar playground association, many of which were privately funded by himself and his friends and colleagues. He was the first chairman of Baltimore City's Bureau of Recreation, and the first chairman of the city's Board of Park Commissioners for the combined Department of Recreation and Parks. Mr. Garrett was through much of his life an active member of the National Recreation Association, and was elected its chairman in 1941. His value as a public citizen can clearly be recognized in the Baltimore mayoral campaign of 1947, when both the Republican and Democratic nominees promised that, if elected, they would name Garrett as chairman of the city's Department of Recreation and Parks. A devout Presbyterian throughout his life, he was a member of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, and was recognized in 1948 as the year's outstanding layperson in the field of religious education by the International Council of Religious Education.

In the realm of civil rights for African-Americans, he was a staunch conservative and opposed any integration of city public facilities in the parks, playgrounds, pools, tennis courts and recreation centers, which were coming into increasing controversy as the national civil rights movement expanded in the late 1940s and 1950s. He was later asked to resign from the Board of Park Commissioners when a positive vote for integration was taken.

Through a mayoral appointment, he served as the chairman of the city's Public Improvement Commission. He was also largely responsible for bringing the Boy Scouts of America to Baltimore in 1910, and took an active role in managing that organization in Baltimore until his retirement from the Baltimore Area Council in 1934. In 1919, Garrett gave to the City of Baltimore a tract of land of a city block along East Patapsco Avenue, between Second and Third Streets in its recently annexed Brooklyn neighborhood in South Baltimore to be used as a public park, which was named in his honor; this was but one of many properties which he offered to the city for use as public parkland.

Garrett died on April 25, 1961, in Baltimore, Maryland.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • De Wael, Herman. Herman's Full Olympians: "Athletics 1900". Accessed 18 March 2006. Available electronically at [1].
  • Mallon, Bill (1998). The 1900 Olympic Games, Results for All Competitors in All Events, with Commentary. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. ISBN 0-7864-0378-0. 
  • Robert Garrett Papers, 1903-1949 (bulk 1920-1945), Princeton University Library, Manuscripts Division. [2].
  • The New York Times, Obituaries, April 26, 1961.
  • The Baltimore Sun, Obituaries, April 26, 1961.

External References[edit]