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Have Track Shoes, Will Travel

WHY IS HE ON HIS TOES? — Entitled “Passing the Torch,” this wonderful figure was created by Delaware sculptor Kristen Visbal. The bronze statue depicts Bob Hayes, an American sports legend. According to Ms. Visbal, all of the photos that show the track star running make it seem as if seem as if his feet never hit the ground. This is the effect that she tried to achieve with her work. The piece was unveiled in November 2002. Its home is in East Jacksonville’s A. Philip Randolph Heritage Park. Mr. Hayes grew up in East Jacksonville, racing up & down dirt streets as a boy.

A MANHUNT ~ The large Times-Union headline cried “WANTED.” On August 2, 1962, the newspaper described the man it sought: a nineteen-year-old Jax native named Bob Hayes. The public knew Hayes as “the world’s fastest human,” and he would later gain even greater glory in track & football. During the summer of ’62, however, sports officials needed the young African American to help represent the US in Scandinavian track meets. To make the American team, though, the speedster had to be in New York by the next day. The Times-Union joined TV stations & even the police in a massive manhunt. It seemed as if half of the River City’s residents were looking for Hayes.

Fortunately, the dragnet paid off. The person who saved the day was Earl Kitchings, Hayes’s high school coach and a local sports legend himself. Kitchings found the runner washing his clothes in a local laundromat. They rushed back to Hayes’s mother’s house where he got ready for the trip. Coach Kitchings and Jimmy Thompson, the principal of Matthew Gilbert High School, then loaned the racer several hundred dollars for emergencies and personal use, and they saw him on his way.

-written by Glenn Emery

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