William Davenport was an African-American man born on June 8, 1943 in Troy, Alabama. After becoming the state high school hurdling champion in Ohio, he continued hurdling on the Army’s track team and in 1964, won the U.S. Olympics Trials, finishing in the Olympic Semifinals in the 110m Hurdles. After winning the national championship in the 110m Hurdles a record-breaking three times from 1965-1967, he won gold at the 1968 Olympics, fourth at the 1972 Olympics and bronze at the 1976 Olympics. Additionally, Davenport competed in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid in the four-man bobsled team and became one of only eight Americans all-time to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Moreover, Davenport won the national title in the Indoor 60m Hurdles a record-breaking five times: in 1966, 1967, and 1969-1971. For all this and more, Davenport was honored as one of this country's 100 Golden Olympians before the 1996 Centennial Olympics in Atlanta.
As an outstanding athlete, Davenport was already a role model to future generations of hardworking athletes. However, Davenport felt the need to share his blessings with other deserving athletes. After serving his country as a Colonel in the National Guard until 1998, he committed himself to helping the youth. Davenport started the Track Club at Southern University, raised money for college scholarships and fought to get the Army to validate the National Guard’s sports program so that its deserving young athletes could get the fair opportunity to succeed that he had received as a young man.
Willie Davenport, nicknamed “Breeze” was a phenomenal Olympian, but what set him apart from others was his eagerness to reach out to the youth. He will be forever remembered, not only for inspiring youth to dream big, but also for helping youth to reach their dreams.