It was 60- years ago this summer that Graham native, Dean Smith won an Olympic gold medal in Finland.
Before he was John Ford's go- to guy in John Wayne westerns, and many others...
Before he was a Hollywood stuntman, filling in for everyone from Robert Redford to Maureen O'hara....
Dean Smith was a boy from Graham with a gift and a dream.
"In 1949, I won every 100 yard dash I ran in. I made Look Magazine, All American in the 100 yard dash, and I started getting calls from big universities and things. And heck I didn't, I'm as country as a gourd dipper. I didn't know what was going on."
What was going on was all of those years playing and working out on the family's ranch were paying off.
Dean was fast, and he took that speed, first to U.T. in Austin, and then to the '52 Olympic Games.
"In 1950 when I was still a freshman, I went to New Orleans to run in the Sugar Bowl Track meet, and I ran a 10.3 hundred meter dash, and I won that thing. I qualified, and got to thinking maybe I can make this Olympic team. So, sure enough I won all those big relays that year, and went out to Los Angeles and went through all the preliminaries and everything, and made the Olympic team."
When Dean arrived in Finland, he says he was just a 20- year old kid from the Texas back country, in a strange land where the sun never seemed to set.
"They were having great northern nights. It was daytime all the time, and we had to wear goggles to sleep at night." "I had to pinch myself every once in a while to see if I was really being able to do all that."
"To walk into that stadium in that country, and that thing they had every seat filled, and the noise from all of that was really something."
"We had little hats on with those blue blazers, and gray flannel pants and white shoes. Well, they turned those pigeons out, and those pigeons pooped all over those Russians in white suits. But, we had hats on, so we were safe."
And, it was those Russians, Dean would face with his team in the 400- meter relay.
"I was the lead-off man. And, then there was Harrison Dillard, who was an Olympic gold medal winner. Lindy Remigino, who edged me in the 100- meters, and then Andy Stanfield, who was the anchorman. And, we defeated the Russians, and got a gold medal."
"The Cold War was going on, and we had to compete against the Russians, and they were wanting to whip our butts any direction they could. But, they didn't get it done that time."
And, while he did not win the gold in the 100- meter dash, Dean's Olympic experience there is still definitely one to remember as well.
"It was the closest finish in Olympic history."
"We got over there, and it was a wonderful country. The people were just terrific. And, there was only a 6- lane track. And, there was 6- of us in the finals of the 100- meter dash. And, it was a dead heat."
And, that 100- meter dash, the closest finish in Olympic history, it can still be found on the internet. Dean's arm's over the tape. His foot's across the finish line. This guy's in his lane. It took them 2- hours to come up with a decision, a decision, the only one Dean says to this day he doesn't agree with.
"I still wasn't satisfied with what happened there you know."
But, Dean never was one to sit around and worry about what could have been, or should have been.
A lifetime spent running the ranch he shares now with wife, Debby and their son, Finis is proof of that, as is 40- years spent making movies in Hollywood.
Finis: "Well, it's pretty cool to have a dad that's done all that stuff. And, it's almost hard to believe that when you look and watch something, that he did that stuff. And, when people at school ask you questions about your dad, and say, your dad did that? It's pretty cool."
"This is when I jumped over a motorcycle. That's Evel Kneivel."
And, at about that same time, Dean even outran Miami Dolphin wide receiver Nat Moore when Dean was pushing 45.
"Don Shula and all of them were there. And, I don't think his ego liked that because an old man beat him."
Dean Smith is in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, The Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, and Walk of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco, and the Sports Hall of Honor at the University of Texas.
But, among his many, many other awards, honors and accomplishments, will always be a title earned 60- years ago, that of Olympic gold medalist.
If you want to see what's keeping Dean busy these days, Yellawood Pressure Treated Pine commercials he has a recurring role in, can also be found on the internet.
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