Edition for Educators—The Olympics

Here pictured in his 1972 Congressional Baseball card, Representative Bob Mathias was a lifelong athlete. He participated in the Summer Olympics in 1948 and 1952./tiles/non-collection/7/7-25-Mathias-2009_110_026.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Here pictured in his 1972 Congressional Baseball card, Representative Bob Mathias was a lifelong athlete. He participated in the Summer Olympics in 1948 and 1952.
“My colleague and friend, the gentleman from Maryland [Charles Thomas McMillen] and I are among the fortunate few who have been honored to compete in the Olympic games. We know the value of the games first hand—in encouraging fitness, in displaying sportsmanship and most importantly, in fostering friendships among people of many diverse nations.”
—Representative Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, Congressional Record, 2 December 1987

From track and field to judo to basketball, the Summer Olympics is a quadrennial event that captures the attention and imagination of people worldwide. This month’s Edition for Educators features the stories of the many Olympians who have served in the House of Representatives.

Featured Olympians

Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado
A Representative and then Senator from Colorado, Ben Nighthorse Campbell trained in judo in Tokyo, Japan. He went on to compete in the 1964 Summer Olympics, but an injury ended his participation early. Campbell later coached the U.S. National Judo Team. He first won election to the House of Representatives in 1986, before winning a Senate seat in 1992.

Representative Tom McMillen won a Silver Medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics as a member of the U.S. basketball team./tiles/non-collection/7/7-25-McMillen-PA2016_03_0058a.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives Representative Tom McMillen won a Silver Medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics as a member of the U.S. basketball team.

Jim Ryun of Kansas
James Ronald Ryun was a track and field participant in the 1964, 1968, and 1972 Summer Olympics, winning the Silver Medal for the 1500 meter race in 1968. He set several world records in his prolific running career. Following his retirement from the sport, Ryun launched a company which organized and ran sports camps for youths. In 1996, he won election to the House of Representatives from Kansas and served until 2007.

Charles Thomas McMillen of Maryland
Charles Thomas “Tom” McMillen won a silver medal in the 1972 Munich Olympics as a member of the U.S. Men’s National Basketball Team. He played in the NBA from 1975 through 1986, ending his career with the Washington Bullets. His career kept him in Washington, D.C., when he won election to the House of Representatives from Maryland in 1986. McMillen lost re-election six years later and went on to co-chair the President's Commission on Physical Fitness.

Featured Historical Highlight

The 1980 Congressional Gold Medal Awarded to the U.S. Summer Olympic Team
On this date, President James Earl “Jimmy” Carter presented more than 450 U.S. Olympic athletes with Congressional Gold Medals on the Capitol steps. To protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the U.S. Olympic team boycotted the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, forcing athletes to forfeit the opportunity to compete for a medal in the international event.

Featured Objects in the House Collection

Representative Ralph Metcalfe of Illinois achieved worldwide fame as an Olympic athlete years before he became involved in politics on Chicago’s South Side. He is pictured above running as a member of the Marquette University track team in 1933./tiles/non-collection/7/7-25-Metcalfe_Running_2007_255_000.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Representative Ralph Metcalfe of Illinois achieved worldwide fame as an Olympic athlete years before he became involved in politics on Chicago’s South Side. He is pictured above running as a member of the Marquette University track team in 1933.

Ralph Harold Metcalfe
This photograph of Representative Ralph Metcalfe shows him crossing the tape as a member of the Marquette University track team in 1933. A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971, Metcalfe was an Olympic medalist and a household name long before he ever arrived on Capitol Hill.

The Bob Mathias Story Movie Poster
In 1954, Allied Artists released The Bob Mathias Story starring the future Congressman as himself. The movie showed Mathias training for and winning Olympic Gold Medals in the 1948 and 1952 Decathlon events. The movie incorporated actual footage from the Olympic events into the film. Bob Mathias won election to Congress from California 17 years later.

Featured Blog Post

Edition for Educators—Fun and Games
Even Representatives need to unwind and relax now and then. Whether enjoying a horseshoe tournament or an international chess match, Capitol Hill has rarely been without a bit of fun. Since 1909, Members have met annually on the baseball diamond to play some ball and raise money for charity. This Edition for Educators focuses on these lighter traditions in the House of Representatives.

This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. The series appears monthly. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.

Categories: Education, People