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Record-Breaking Track Star Clifton Mayfield / Nick Ehrhardt

Record-Breaking Track Star Clifton Mayfield

The Washington Post’s Matt Schudel wrote “A Local Life” feature that bears this provocative headline: Clifton Mayfield, 70, leaped from national fame into a life of obscurity.

Schudel wrote:

Mayfield, who grew up in Washington, became the first athlete from his small, historically black college, Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, to win a national title. He was the third-ranked long jumper in the country in 1963, the fifth-best in the world and a favorite for the 1964 U.S. Olympic team.

But because of an injury, he was unable to defend his NCAA title a year later and was not chosen for the Olympics. After that, he seemed to disappear.

Such drama! But wait! There’s more.

More than 40 years later, when his coach at Central State organized a reunion of his old team, Mr. Mayfield was the only person he couldn’t find.

“We heard from everybody but Clifton,” a former teammate, Hamilton Lipscomb, said. “It was like he dropped off the map.”

Read Schudel’s feature to find out what happened to Mayfield. It’s a beautifully written and unusual story.


This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer who lives in Northeast Ohio. She is director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.