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Boston, Ralph(1939–) - Chronology, Becomes Business Executive and Receives Additional Honors, Receives Special Recognition during Atlanta Olympics

games hall fame inducted

1939 Born in Laurel, Mississippi on May 9

1956 Sets national high school record in hurdles

1960 Breaks world record and wins Olympic gold medal in long jump

1964 Wins Olympic silver medal in long jump

1968 Wins Olympic bronze medal in long jump

1975 Inducted into U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame

1977 Inducted as first black athlete in Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame

1982 Becomes corporate executive

1985 Inducted into Olympic Hall of Fame

1996 Receives special recognition at Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta

2001 Retires as corporate executive

Becomes Business Executive and Receives Additional Honors

In 1982 Boston became an account executive for the South Central Bell telephone company, based in their Knoxville office, thus ending his association with UT after thirteen years. During the 1982 World’s Fair in the city, Boston was honored again when officials created a display, including his three Olympic medals, and the same year he was inducted into the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame.

The following year Boston was named to the All-Time All-Star Indoor Track and Field Team, and in 1985 he received two more prestigious awards: he was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame and received the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Silver Anniversary Award. In 1988 Boston left South Central Bell to become a general partner at WKXT-TV, the CBS affiliate station in Knoxville. His success was tempered with the death of his mother, Eulalia Boston, at age 94 on March 14, 1991.

Boston further diversified his corporate experience when he became director of customer relations for Ericsson Inc., the telecommunications company based in Atlanta, Georgia. As a result, he moved from Knoxville to Atlanta in 1992, yet continued his relationship with WKXT until 1996. In 1993 Tennessee State University named its annual homecoming event the Ralph Boston Golf Tournament, and a spring invitational track meet was also named for Boston and his TSU teammate John Moon, who went on to become head track coach at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey.

Receives Special Recognition during Atlanta Olympics

Being in Atlanta seemed fortuitous as well as convenient for Boston, as the city was the site of the 1996 Olympic Games. He participated in the Knoxville portion of the Olympic torch relay to Atlanta, and during the opening ceremonies he received the high honor of being one of the persons chosen to bring the Olympic flag into the new Olympic Stadium. Veteran NBC-TV sportscaster Dick Enberg referred to the “elegant Ralph Boston” in his commentary during the international broadcast of the Olympic Games.

Other connections to the 1960 Games were evident, as there was a tribute to Boston’s fellow TSU classmate and Olympian, Wilma Rudolph, who had died in 1994. Another teammate, Muhammad Ali, was the final torch-bearer lighting the cauldron to signify the start of the Centennial Olympic Games. Overall, the Atlanta Olympic Games were successful, but they were marred by the bombing in Centennial Olympic Park. An African American woman, Alice Hawthorne, and a Turkish cameraman, Melih Uzunyol, lost their lives, and 111 others were wounded. The person responsible, Eric Rudolph, was eventually brought to justice for his actions.

Boston and other Olympic veterans could not help but reflect back on the 1972 tragedy in Munich, but they continued to hold high the Olympic ideals of sportsmanship and international brotherhood as the games concluded. The following year, Boston moved to Peachtree City, an Atlanta suburb, and left Ericsson to become president and chief executive officer of ServiceMaster Services, a company based in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

After four years with ServiceMaster, Boston opted for full retirement to enjoy the fruits of his very successful life and multiple careers. Since 2001, he has divided his time between residences and family properties in Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee, and participated in charitable endeavors such as the Atlanta-based Trumpet Awards, created by his friend and TSU alumna Xernona Clayton and numerous professional and celebrity golf tournaments. At reunions and other gatherings Boston has documented his family history by recording interviews on videotape and also has spent time working on his autobiography.

In retirement, Boston curtailed many of the community involvements and board affiliations he held during his working years, including the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, healthcare and hospital systems in Georgia and Tennessee, the Boys and Girls Club, and other organizations. He continued to speak and work with young people on a volunteer basis, motivating them to achieve the same balance in mind, body, and spirit that enabled him to achieve in his life.

Bostridge, Ian (Charles) [next] [back] Boston

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