John Collier

Inducted: 1968
Born: 1907
Died: 1974

John S. Collier, a Phi Beta Kappa scholar at Brown University, won a bronze medal in the 110-meter-high hurdles in the 1928 Olympics with a 14.8 clocking. He finished third behind South African Syd Atkinson and American Steve Anderson. As a captain of the Brown track team in his senior year, Collier gained national ranking as the indoor and outdoor IC4A champion in the hurdles. He won the 1929 IC4A high hurdles in 14.6, only one-fifth of a second off the world mark, beating the 1928 champion, Ross Nichols of Stanford, who finished second. In 1929, Collier also won the IC4A indoor hurdles and set a world record of 7.6 for the 60-y hurdles at the Millrose Games. Collier made a comeback in 1933, and the following year, he equaled the indoor record for the 60-y hurdles (five hurdles) three times before bringing the record down to 7.5 at the Millrose Games. He also won the AAU indoor in 1934 and set a new world record of 7.4 for the 60 y hurdles (four hurdles).

The 1928 Olympics became famous for several reasons:

  • For the first time, a symbolic fire was lit before the games. It was lit in a cauldron that was placed at the top of a tower in the stadium.
  • The number of female competitors doubled as women were finally allowed to compete in gymnastics and athletics.
  • Asian athletes won gold medals for the first time.
  • Johnny Weissmuller became swimming’s first superstar by winning five gold medals. He won fewer gold medals than Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps, but this was due to the limited number of events open to him. After his swimming career ended, Weissmuller became a movie star as “Tarzan of the Apes.”
  • Australian rower Henry Pearce became an Olympic legend when he stopped midway through his quarter-final race to let a family of ducks pass but still won the gold medal.

Collier was president of the Cimmerian Club and the Brown senior class. His record: 1927 – NE’s: 2nd, 120 h.h, 3rd 220 l.h. IC4A’s 2nd, 120 h.h. 1928 – 2NE’s: 1st, 120 h.h. (15.0, new meet record), 2nd, 220 l.h. IC4A’s 2nd, 120 h.h. Olympics: 3rd, 110-meter h.h. (14.8). 1929 – NE’s: 1st, 120 h.h. (15.0), 1st, 220 l.h. (24.4). IC4A’s: 1st, 120 h.h. (14.6).

John Collier was born on Sep. 28, 1907, in Buffalo, New York, the son of Theodore and Edith (Lockersby) Collier. His father, Theodore, was Chairman of the Brown Department of History and the author of a critically acclaimed book, A New World in the Making, published in 1919. He also contributed to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Dictionary of American Biography, and various historical journals.

After serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during WW II, John Collier taught science and coached track at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire for more than twenty years.

John Collier died on Oct. 31, 1974. He was inducted into The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1968 and The Brown University Hall of Fame in 1971. 

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