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Archie Williams

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 1
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 1
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameArchie Franklin•Williams
Used nameArchie•Williams
Born1 May 1915 in Oakland, California (USA)
Died24 June 1993 in Fairfax, California (USA)
Measurements183 cm / 80 kg
AffiliationsCalifornia Golden Bears, Berkeley (USA)
NOC United States


Archie Williams was the son of Wadsworth and Lillian Wall Williams. He ran track at University High in Oakland and then enrolled at San Mateo Junior College, prior to transferring to the University of California at Berkeley. Prior to 1936, Archie Williams was virtually unknown in major track circles but he made astounding progress in the Olympic year.

After running 47.4 for 440 yards in April, he clocked 46.8 in May and then, in a heat of the NCAA Championships in June, he set a world 400 metre world record of 46.1. Although he finished only third at the 1936 AAU Championships, Williams won the U.S. Olympic Trials at 400 metres in 46.6. At the Berlin Olympics he beat Britain’s Godfrey Brown by inches to win the gold medal. Shortly after the Olympics, at a meet in Sweden, Williams injured his leg. He continued to compete in track sporadically in 1937-39 but never again reached his form of 1936, his best ranking on the year lists being 10th in 1938, and his best performance sixth place at the 1939 AAU Championships.

Williams graduated from Berkeley in 1939 with a degree in engineering, but planned on becoming a pilot. During World War II he was an instructor at the Tuskegee Institute training program for black pilots. He later served in the U.S. Air Force flying bombers before retiring in 1964 as a lieutenant colonel. While in the military he earned degrees in aeronautical engineering and meteorology. He later became a computer technology teacher in Marin County, California at Sir Francis Drake High School, but in 2021 the school was re-named in his Williams’ honor, as the Archie Williams High School.

Personal Best: 400 – 46.1 (1936).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1936 Summer Olympics Athletics USA Archie Williams
400 metres, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
4 × 400 metres Relay, Men (Olympic) United States DNS