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Olympian, Hoover High grad Jack Davis dies at 81

Track and field: Former Hoover High standout captured a pair of silver medals in the 1950s.

July 26, 2012|By Charles Rich, charles.rich@latimes.com
  • U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame inductee and Hoover High graduate Jack Davis, second from right, passed away at 81 on Friday.
U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame inductee and Hoover High… (Courtesy of Jack…)

Jack Davis, who earned a pair of Olympic silver medals and played a significant role in shaping the track and field landscape in Glendale, has died. He was 81.

Davis, a Hoover High and USC graduate, died July 20 in San Diego. The Los Angeles Times reported that Davis, who captured the silver medal in the 110-meter hurdles in the 1952 and 1956 Summer Olympic Games, died from complications of a fall.

Davis was born Sept. 11, 1930 in Amarillo, Texas. Davis' family moved to Glendale, where he gained an affinity for track and field. He excelled at Hoover and then at USC, where he would go on to become a three-time NCAA champion in the 120-yard hurdle event and captured a 220-yard crown. Davis was named Glendale's 15th greatest sports figure of the 20th century by the Glendale News-Press in 1999 and in 2004 was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame.

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Sam Nicholson was a teammate of Davis' at Hoover and recalled making a suggestion to Davis, who graduated from Hoover in 1949 and enjoyed a career in real estate development in San Diego, to be a hurdler. Davis, who also competed in the long jump, took Nicholson's idea to heart and proceeded to make a name for himself. In 1949, Davis captured the CIF Southern Section 120-yard high hurdles (now 110 meter) in 14.5 seconds. He then recorded a first-place finish in the same race in 14.4 to win the state title.

"I told him that with his height and speed, he should run the hurdles and that he'd be great at it," said Nicholson, a La Crescenta resident who graduated from Hoover in 1949 and built a rapport with Davis that spanned more than 60 years. "He was the perfect teammate and he's a credit to the sport of track and field and athletics in general.

"He led a good, clean life. He was a marvelous competitor. If he lost a race, he would be the first to go over to the winner and offer his congratulations."

At USC, Davis continued to focus on track and earned varsity letters between 1951-53. USC developed a dynastic reign, which included winning an NCAA championship from 1951-53. He won three titles in the 120-yard hurdles and took the 220-yard hurdle championship in 1953, when he served as the Trojans' team captain.

Frank Flores, who was a teammate of Davis' at USC for three seasons, said Davis instilled class on and off the track.

"He was such a great friend and he always had that tremendous drive," said Flores, who was USC's captain in 1952. "He did a lot for USC and the sport itself.

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