By Tommie Kendall
During the 1960s, people came from all around to watch the lightning-fast Jim Green tear down the runway with record times. The speedster was an attraction at Eminence High School, the University of Kentucky and on the Professional Track Circuit.
Now, the 1967 Eminence High School graduate and 1971 UK graduate is considered one of the best athletes to ever come from UK.
At a Hall of Fame Induction Dinner on Friday, Sept. 28, Green was inducted into the 2007 class of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame, and the following night recognized at halftime of the UK-Florida Atlantic football game. Also inducted were volleyball player Marsha Bond, football player Mo Williams, baseball player Dom Fucci, basketball player Larry Conley, and former coach and athletics director Harry Lancaster.
Green built his speed on the old railroad bed across from EHS, where the team practiced daily in the early '60s. As a freshmen, he won the 100-yard dash at the Kentucky state championships, and was second in the 220. His sophomore season he won the 100, 220 and 440, and led the Warriors to a school record fourth-place finish at the state meet - with all of their points coming from Green alone.
Green went on to win six more state titles as a junior and senior to cap off a legendary high school career that included 10 state titles, state records in the 100-, 220- and 440-yard dashes and two national high school titles in the 100 and 220.
Following high school, Green was offered scholarships to just about every college and university in the country. But he decided to join the struggling track team at UK over USC, UCLA, Michigan, Michigan State, the University of Florida and Tennessee.
"UK didn't have a very good track program at the time, and I thought I could help them build one," Green told the Local in a 2005 interview. "I also wanted to do something for my home state. It meant a whole lot for me to wear the blue and white with Kentucky across my chest."
With better facilities, including a track to train on, Green continued to improve during his four years at UK. By the time he graduated in 1971, he had won five NCAA titles, eight Southeastern Conference titles and broke UK and SEC records.
Just before the 1968 New Mexico Olympics, while still at UK, Green tied the world record in the 100-meter dash with 10 seconds flat. He entered the USA Olympic Trials as one of the contenders to finish among the top three to make the USA team, but a pulled hamstring in the semifinal race ended his chance to trade in his Kentucky jersey for a USA one.
But he rebounded the following year to beat all three sprinters that made the Olympic team ahead of him - John Carlos, Lennox Miller and Ronnie Ray Smith.
After Green left UK as the school's first African-American athlete to graduate, he competed on the Professional Track Circuit for five years. During this time, he tied the world record in the 60-yard, 100-yard and 100-meter dashes, broke the world record in the 300-yard dash with a blazing time of 30.6 seconds, competed in 10 foreign countries, and once defeated a field of the top sprinters in the world, including O.J. Simpson, in a 60-yard race that was televised by ABC.
Nagging hamstring injuries also kept him off the USA team in the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Green has also been inducted into the Eminence Hall of Fame, the Mason-Dixon Hall of Fame, the Dawehare's Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame and the state of Kentucky's Athletic Hall of Fame. He was also named the best sprinter from Kentucky in the last century by the Courier-Journal in a 1999 list called "Kentucky's Greatest," and was named the greatest athlete to come from Henry County by the Local in 2005.
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