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Jimmy Lu Valle

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 0
Silver 0
Bronze 1
Total 1
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameJames Ellis "Jimmy"•Lu Valle
Used nameJimmy•Lu Valle
Born10 November 1912 in San Antonio, Texas (USA)
Died30 January 1993 in Te Anau (NZL)
Measurements185 cm / 73 kg
AffiliationsUCLA Bruins, Los Angeles (USA)
NOC United States


While at UCLA, Jimmy Lu Valle proved himself to be a great furlong runner. In 1934 he ran 20.8 for 220y on a straightaway and Bob Kiesel and Foy Draper were the only sprinters in the world to match Lu Valle’s time that year. In 1933, Lu Valle won the IC4A 440 yards, and he also won the 1935 NCAA 440y in 47.7. In the Olympic year he brought his best 440 y time down to 47.1 at the Princeton Invitational and two weeks later he won the 400 m at the Western Olympic Trials in 46.3, which would remain the best mark of his career.

Although a tremendous athlete, Lu Valle emphasized academics while at UCLA and then obtained a masters’ degree in chemistry there. He was the first President of UCLA’s Graduate Student Association, and later obtained a doctorate in chemistry under Linus Pauling at the California Institute of Technology, thereafter teaching chemistry briefly at Fisk University.

From 1941-53 Lu Valle worked as a chemist for the Eastman Kodak Company, doing research on color photography, He was the first African-American in their laboratories. He later worked in research with Technical Operations, Inc., Fairchild Camera & Instrument Corporation, SMC Corporation, and Smith Corona Marchant Laboratories.

Lu Valle was considered an expert in electron diffraction, photochemistry, magnetic resonance, solid state physics, neurochemistry, and the chemistry of memory and learning. From 1975 until his retirement in 1984 Lu Valle was laboratory administrator for the chemistry department at Stanford. In March 1985 the new student center at UCLA was named Lu Valle Commons in his honor.

Personal Best: 400 – 46.3 (1936).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1936 Summer Olympics Athletics USA Jimmy Lu Valle
400 metres, Men (Olympic) 3 Bronze
4 × 400 metres Relay, Men (Olympic) United States DNS