Bob Richards

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For other people named Bob Richards, see Bob Richards (disambiguation).
Bob Richards
Bob Richards.jpg
Personal details
Born (1926-02-20) February 20, 1926 (age 90)
Champaign, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Populist (1984–1996)
American Freedom (2010–
Alma mater University of Illinois, Urbana-
Sports career
Sport Pole vault, decathlon
Club LAAC, Los Angeles

Robert Eugene "Bob" Richards (born February 20, 1926), nicknamed the "Vaulting Vicar" or the "Pole Vaulting Parson" in his competitive days, was a versatile athlete who made three US Olympic Teams in two events. He competed in the 1948, 1952, and 1956 Summer Olympics as a pole vaulter, and as a decathlete in 1956.[1][2] He is the only male two-time Olympic gold medal winner in the pole vault (1952 and 1956), thus also the only man to defend his Olympic title. He also won a bronze medal in 1948, so he won three Olympic medals in the pole vault. All of his feats were equalled by female pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, completed in 2012. He also was 13th in the 1956 decathlon.


Richards was the second man to pole vault 15 ft (4.57 m). While a student at the University of Illinois, Richards tied for the national collegiate pole vault title and followed that with 20 national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles, including 17 in the pole vault and three in the decathlon.[3][4][5] The first man to clear 15 feet was Dutch Warmerdam, who set the world record of 4.77 m (15 ft 734 in) in 1942, long before Richards came into his prime. While Richards was the dominant vaulter of his time, he never achieved the world record.

Richards later became involved in promoting physical fitness and continued to vault in his later years. He was the first athlete to appear on the front of Wheaties cereal boxes in 1958 (though not the first depicted on all parts of the packaging), and also was the first Wheaties spokesman, setting up the Wheaties Sports Federation, which encouraged participation in Olympic sports.[6] Richards had four sons who were also pole vaulters: Brandon, held the national high school record at 18'2" for fourteen years from 1985;[7] Tom won the CIF California State Meet in 1988; Bob, Junior was second in the same meet in 1968[8] and later ranked #7 in the USA in 1973.[9]

Ordained in 1946 as a minister in the Church of the Brethren, he was elected to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983 and the United States National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975.[10] As he aged, Richards continued participating in Track and Field in a variety of events, particularly throwing events. He was one of the first regular participants in the origins of what now has become Masters athletics.[11]

In 1984 Richards ran for President of the United States on the newly formed far-right Populist Party ticket.[12] He and running mate Maureen Salaman earned 66,324 votes. In 1988 that same party nominated white-supremacist David Duke for President. In 2010 Richards reportedly expressed support for a white nationalist political party called the American Third Position Party.[13]

Richards and his wife now operate the Olympian Ranch in Gordon in Palo Pinto County in north central Texas,[2] breeding miniature horses. In 1957 the actor Hal Stalmaster played Richards as a teenager in an episode of the ABC anthology series Cavalcade of America.[14]


Richards was inducted as a Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and awarded the Order of Lincoln (the State’s highest honor) by the Governor of Illinois in 2000 in the area of Sports.[15] Richards is referenced in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary "Survive and Advance", for the impact he had on former N.C. State coach Jim Valvano. Valvano cites hearing Richards speak when he was a teen and the motivational messages he implored.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bob Richards.
  2. ^ a b Olympian Ranch – About us.
  4. ^ USA Indoor Track & Field Champions. Men's Pole Vault. USATF
  5. ^ USA Outdoor Track & Field Champions. Men's Decathlon. USATF
  6. ^ "Wheaties – The Breakfast of Champions" (PDF). General Mills. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 20, 2009. Retrieved May 20, 2009. 
  7. ^ High School Pole Vault Records.
  8. ^ "California State Meet Results – 1915 to present". Hank Lawson. Retrieved December 25, 2012. 
  9. ^ All-Time U.S. Rankings — Men’s Pole Vault.
  10. ^ "National Track and Field Hall of Fame". USA Track & Field. Retrieved November 4, 2010. 
  11. ^ "U.S. Masters International Track Team Newsletter – European Report November 1971" (PDF). Retrieved November 4, 2010. 
  12. ^ "746 F. 2d 656 – Populist Party v. Herschler". OpenJurist. Archived from the original on April 16, 2015. Retrieved November 4, 2010. 
  13. ^ Former Wheaties Spokesman Said to Back Racist Party, Southern Poverty Law Center, July 15, 2010
  14. ^ "Hal Stalmaster". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved April 16, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Laureates by Year - The Lincoln Academy of Illinois". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Retrieved 2016-02-26. 
Party political offices
New political party Populist nominee for President of the United States
Succeeded by
David Duke