Mal Whitfield, Olympian who served in Foreign Service, dies

Mal Whitfield, a Tuskegee airman who won Olympic track and field titles in the 800 meters in 1948 and 1952 and served for decades as a sports affairs officer for the U.S. Information Agency, died Thursday. He was 91.

Fredricka Whitfield said she and other family members were with her father when he died at the Veterans Administration hospital in Washington.

Nicknamed ''Marvelous Mal,'' Whitfield joined the Army Air Force after graduating from high school in 1943. He was a member of the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group at Lockbourne AFB in Ohio, and flew 27 combat missions during the Korean War.

The first service member to win a gold medal while on active duty, Whitfield also helped the U.S. win the 1,600 relay title in London. The former Ohio State star successfully defended his 800 title in 1952 in Helsinki.

As a sports ambassador, Whitfield traveled to countries throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa, his daughter said.

''He trained countless people in track and field,'' Fredricka Whitfield said. ''He helped others in foreign service, helping them to become comfortable in Africa and the Middle East.''

''He never boasted or bragged about his history as an airman or with the Olympics,'' she said.

In 1989, after retiring from government work, Mal Whitfield established the Whitfield Foundation to promote sports and academics around the world. The foundation provided scholarships and donations sports equipment to developing nations.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.