Milt Campbell, 1st black Olympic decathlon winner, dies

Associated Press Modified: November 4, 2012 at 9:47 pm •  Published: November 4, 2012
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Campbell was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1999 and was honored this year by the International Swimming Hall of Fame. In 2000, the New Jersey Sportswriters Association named Campbell its New Jersey Athlete of the Century.

In June, he was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame along with nine others, including actor Michael Douglas, author Joyce Carol Oates and the late New York Giants owner Wellington Mara.

Linda Rusch said Campbell dreamed of being a great athlete as a young boy competing with his older brother, Tom.

"He actually would look at the ceiling and say 'I am going to be the world's greatest athlete' every day," she said. "He needed to beat his brother."

Rusch said Campbell became a motivational speaker, and maintained a positive outlook despite the loss of a son to cancer and as he himself fought the disease. In addition to Rusch, he is survived by three grown children.

"Someone would say, 'How are you feeling?' He'd say, 'Great,'" Rusch said. "He was such a fighter. And with this cancer, he tried to fight it until the end. For his wife. For his family. And for his friends."

Rusch said Campbell was a whirlwind of activity — playing tennis as well as riding bikes, horses and motorcycles — until cancer treatment began slowing him down. She said the past year was a special one, with him being honored by the New Jersey and the International Swimming halls as well as being invited to attend the Olympic trials in Oregon.

"People called and said, 'We need you out here,'" she said. "He didn't get the recognition in the '50s. He got it all this year and he died."

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