John Baxter Taylor made a name for himself at Penn before he even donned the Red and Blue; while at Brown Preparatory, he was a member of a team celebrated for not losing a race and capturing the one-mile interscholastic relay championship at the Penn Relays.
Taylor entered the WhartonSchool in 1903, withdrew at the end of his second year and moved into the School of Veterinary Medicine in 1908. During his tenure at Penn, Taylor was regarded as the finest quarter-miler in the college ranks, winning three IC4A championships at 440 yards and setting the record at 48.6 seconds. In 1907 he was the national indoor champion for 600 yards.
Internationally, Taylor holds two distinctions—he is the first African-American selected to represent the United States internationally in any sport, and he is the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal (as a member of the United States’ 1600-meter relay team at the 1908 London Games; another member of that relay team was Taylor’s Penn teammate, Quaker Hall of Famer Nathaniel J. Cartmell).
Unfortunately, Taylor had only a few months to enjoy his success; he died of typhoid pneumonia on December 2, 1908.
Today, the trophy given to the men’s team champion at the Outdoor Heptagonal Championships is named in John Taylor’s honor.