USC World Record-Setting Olympic & NCAA Champion Sprinter Patton Dies

    Mel Patton

    May 14, 2014

    Former USC world record-setting sprinter Mel Patton, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time NCAA champion, died on May 9 in Fallbrook, Calif. He was 89.

    The third of USC's "World's Fastest Humans" (following Charles Paddock and Frank Wykoff), Patton set world records in the 100- and 220-yard dashes. He ran a world record 9.3 in the 100 in 1948 after tying the mark of 9.4 in 1947 and he went 20.2 in the 220 on a straightaway in 1949 to break Jesse Owens' world standard. The 9.3 mark in the 100 still ranks second on USC's all-time list and the 20.2 is a still-standing school 220 record. He also once ran a wind-aided 9.1 in the 100-yard dash.

    Nicknamed "Pell Mel," he was a three-time NCAA 100 champ (1947-48-49, with the race contested in yards in 1947 and 1949 and meters in 1948). He also was the NCAA champ in the 200 meters in 1948 and 220 yards in 1949. His 50 total points scored at NCAA meets are the second most in school history.

    While a student at USC, he won two gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics, in the 200 meters and on the 400-meter relay. He also placed fifth in the Olympic 100 meters. He was ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100 meters in 1947 and 1949 and No. 1 in the 200 meters in 1947-48-49.

    He was a four-year USC letterman (1946-47-48-49) and the team captain of the 1949 NCAA championship Trojan squad. He was also the anchor on a USC 880-yard relay team that set a world record in 1949 (1:24.0).

    He was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1985 and into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.

    He attended University High in Los Angeles.

    After graduating from USC, he was a teacher and track coach at Long Beach City College and then Wichita State (known then as University of Wichita) before becoming an executive in the aerospace and electronics industries.

    He is survived by his wife, Shirley, daughter, Susan, son, Gary, and five grandchildren and a great grandchild.

    Services are pending.