A Unique History reflected in the life of one man
Most athletic educators are motivated by the important role sports played in our growing up, and we are inspired to live up to the idea that interscholastic athletics exist to teach life lessons, to develop better citizens, and healthier men and women. Thus, when in 2006 an amateur track & field historian* told me the story of John Williams Overton, a 1913 graduate of The Hill School (where I was employed) and later a war hero, I was fascinated. When I located a treasure trove of primary source material in the school’s library, I was inspired to tell his story, entangled with the development of interscholastic sports, America’s mobilization for World War I, and other important strands in our history.
My article was published in 2019, and is available at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23311983.2019.1600208
The story does not lead to a single, simple conclusion, but different readers can draw different lessons from Overton’s heroic life and tragic death. In many ways, the America that we live in came into focus through his life and times.
* the historian was Dave Johnson, also director of the Penn Relays