Arkansas

Minute of History: Arkansas’ Fastest Man

 

Dr. Ken Bridges

Bill Carr was once the fastest man in the world. It all started in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

William Arthur Carr was born in Pine Bluff in 1909. His youth was not unusual. He, like many boys, loved to run and could run faster than anyone. His parents believed in the importance of education and encouraged him to complete high school, where he also competed in athletics. Carr graduated from Pine Bluff High School in 1927.

In 1929, he entered the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where his academic ability matched his aptitude for speed. He would co-captain the varsity track team and never lose a race in Pennsylvania. His winning streak and good nature made him a popular figure on campus, leading him to become his sophomore president in 1930. In his senior year, he was elected to the honors society.

1932 was a miracle year for Bill Carr. The Olympic Games were to be held that summer in Los Angeles, the first time since the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis.

Carr steadily built a reputation and in 1931 won the AAU indoor 300m, but was up against the phenomenal runner Ben Eastman of Stanford University, who many sportswriters predicted would win the gold medal that year and set a world record. in the 300 meter run. another race in March.

That spring, the IC4A intercollegiate championship brought together the best college runners in the country. Carr and Eastman led the rest, with Carr passing Eastman to win the 400 meters in 47.0 seconds. Two weeks later, they met again at the Olympic trials. Carr, in a burst of speed, finished in 46.9 seconds over a distance of 400 meters.

At the Olympics, the rivalry between Carr and Eastman took center stage. On August 5, the 400m race took place. Eastman took the lead early, eventually leading Carr by nearly three meters. Bill Carr put on some extra speed, putting everything he had into the final stretch of the race. He caught up with Eastman and pulled ahead as he approached the finish line, eventually winning by two meters and a fraction of a second.

Bill Carr won the gold medal with a world record time of 46.2 seconds. Two days later, the 1600-meter relay race took place. Carr again led the American team to the gold medal by setting the world record in the race in 3 minutes 8.2 seconds.

Carr was one of the most celebrated athletes in the world for his triumphs. But his glory would be interrupted. In January 1933, in a brutal car accident, he broke his pelvis and two ankles. He will never run again.

He graduated in 1933 with a degree in economics. He married and had one son. He worked for the next few years as an insurance company manager and then served as a naval intelligence officer during World War II. After the war, he worked as a manager in security equipment companies.

Arkansas will never forget his successes. He was the state’s first two-time gold medalist. In 1962, he was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in Little Rock shortly before his sudden death in Tokyo in 1966.

Dr. Ken Bridges is professor of history and geography at Southern Arkansas Community College in Eldorado and local historian for the Southern Arkansas Historic Preservation Society. Bridges can be contacted by email at [email protected] southern arc.edu.

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