Ralph Boston, the Laurel resident leaped his way into history when he broke an Olympic record in 1960.
"Probably the scariest day of my life, 1960 in Rome, September 12," said Olympic medalist Ralph Boston. "I believe I'd never seen that many people before in my life, the stadium had something like eighty-five thousand. I think when I left Laurel they may have been seventeen thousand if you counted everybody twice. So it was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life."
Scared, Boston took off down the runway and took off into the history books.
"When I landed I thought it was a terrible jump. I walked out of the pit as I normally do, but I thought it was a terrible jump," said Boston. "When I saw the distance I was very happy with that and of course a little bit later I had another foul jump that was even farther, but I won, I won."
Boston won the gold medal with an Olympic record of 26 feet 7 ¾ inches, though that wasn't his first record-breaking performance.
"The world's record I broke in August before I went to Rome and it was held by a guy names James Cleveland Owens, we all know him as Jesse," said Boston. "Then in Rome I broke an Olympic record held by the same guy Jesse Owens."
In a so called conditioning meet before Boston left to Rome, Jesse Owens 25-year-old world record had been broken by three inches.
"It was on one of those magical evenings when you know something is going on because other people on the track are doing fabulous things," said Boston. "There were world records being set everywhere and my roommate and I had talked about the world's record and I jokingly said ‘oh I'm going to break the world's record', I had no idea that I was going to do that."
Boston went on to break the world record five more times. In 1961, he became the first to jump 27 feet. It was from 1960 to 1967 that Boston was ranked number one long jumper in the world.
"I actually became a long jumper by accident," said Boston. "I wanted to play football, my mother didn't like that, back at that day, during that time, in those days mom prevailed, so I went to college to run, but I wanted to play football."
Boston retired after the 1968 Olympics. He was inducted into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975, and was the first African American inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1977. Boston spends his time now playing golf, going to the beach, cooking and attending music concerts. He said he plans to keep enjoying life.
"Just live as long as I possibly can," said Boston. "Come back to laurel as often as I possibly can and just enjoy the rest of it. Whatever is out there in front of me, enjoy it, just have a great time."
Boston currently resides in Atlanta. He has two children, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.