Kelley Dolphus Stroud - CSPM

Kelley Dolphus Stroud

Using a golf club as a walking stick and wearing a sign “Denver to Olympia,” Dolphus Stroud walked, ran, and hitchhiked 1,765 miles to the 1928 Olympic trials in Boston. Despite winning the regional 5,000 meter race, Amateur Athletic Association officials withheld paid transportation and expenses given to white athletes. Both Stroud and his white coach L.M. Hunt agreed the decision was racist. Physically and mentally exhausted, Dolphus Stroud arrived at Harvard stadium just 6 hours prior to his race, and was unable to finish.

– From the CSPM Curator of History

In 1910 the Oklahoma State Legislature passed a “Grandfather Clause,” disenfranchising black voters. “Grandfather Clauses” stipulated that only men whose grandfathers were eligible to vote could now vote themselves. Along with prohibitive poll taxes, “Grandfather clauses” were routinely used after the Civil War to deny Blacks the right to vote.

A member of the Oklahoma Territorial Convention, Reverend Kimbal Dolphus Stroud voted against the statehood amendment, foreseeing the legalized discrimination that was to come. When Oklahoma legislators enacted a “Grandfather Clause” in 1910, Rev. Stroud, his wife Effie Frazier Stroud and their four children left the state and migrated to Colorado Springs.

The Strouds had been encouraged to come west several years earlier by Mrs. Stroud’s sister, Jennie Mitcheltree. When they they arrived at the train station in Colorado Springs, Mrs. Mitcheltree was not there to meet them. Married to a white man, Light skinned and “passing as white” herself, Mrs. Mitcheltree described how racial attitudes in Colorado Springs had hardened in a few short years and discrimination was now the norm.

As a former school teacher, Baptist minister, law student and politician, Reverend Stroud soon found that his employment options in Colorado Springs were limited by the color of his skin. Local schools did not hire African American teachers and the Post Office did not hire African American clerks or carriers. Instead, the graduate of Langston University took a job loading coal at the Pikeview Coal Mine to support his family.

Kelley “Dolphus” Stroud was a standout athlete and scholar at Bristol Elementary, Colorado Springs High School and Colorado College. He was awarded the prestigious Perkins Scholarship after his sophomore year at C.C., an honor given to one male and one female student with the highest grade point average. He graduated cum laude in 1931 and was the first African American Phi Beta Kappa at Colorado College.

Stroud was also a phenomenal athlete. On March 5, 1928 he broke a twenty-five year old record for the fastest round trip climb of Pikes Peak, accomplishing the feat in three hours and ten minutes. In June of that year he won the 5,000 meter run in the regional track and field trials in Denver. Participants in the race were informed that the winner would be awarded paid transportation and expenses to the national Olympic Trials in Boston.

However, race officials denied the offer to Dolphus, a decision he and his white track coach L.M. Hunt believed was the result of racism. Without a sponsor and with little money in hand, Stroud was determined to reach the Olympic trials on his own. With a golf club as a walking stick and wearing a sign reading Denver to Olympia, Dolphus Stroud walked, ran and hitchhiked the 1,765 miles to Boston. Unfortunately, he soon ran out of money and arrived at Harvard Stadium just six hours before his race. Mentally and physically exhausted, Dolphus was unable to finish the competition. Denied equal access and accommodations — the Olympic dreams of Dolphus Stroud had come to an unfortunate end.

Submitted by Leah Davis Witherow, CSPM Curator of History

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