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Edward Barton (Eddie) Hamm was a state- and world-class athlete in high school, college, and the Olympics. In the 1928 Olympics, he set a world record in the long jump, becoming the first Arkansan to win a gold medal. The Atlanta Journal called him “the South’s first world champion in any sport.”
Eddie Hamm was born on April 13, 1906, in Lonoke (Lonoke County) to Charles Edward Hamm, a plumber and electrician, and Zilpah Dare Harris Hamm. He was the oldest of five brothers and one sister. Raised in Lonoke, he excelled in sports, especially track and field. In high school, he won the state long jump for three years straight, 1923 to 1925, setting a state record of 23'2" his sophomore year. He won the state 220-yard dash all three years and the state 100-yard dash twice, despite attacks of malaria, which first affected him in his junior year and undoubtedly prevented him from bettering his records. Hamm and teammate Hubert Davis were the only two Lonoke competitors to enter a high school invitational meet at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1925. He won first in the 100-yard dash, the 200-yard dash, the long jump, and the high jump, as well as finishing third place in the 440. Though the two could not enter the relays, together they won the meet by two points over Little Rock High School.
In his junior year, 1924, Hamm set a world high school record of 24'2 5/8", which qualified him for the Olympic trials in Boston, Massachusetts. To pay for his trip, he borrowed $100 from Little Rock (Pulaski County) coach Earl Quigley. He failed to qualify for the Olympics, but the next year he went to Little Rock, regularly bringing Quigley two to five dollars until he repaid the money.
Hamm first visited Georgia Tech to talk about playing football, Coach Alexander, the athletic director, nixed that before he enrolled. In an interview with Atlanta Journal sportswriter Al Thomy in the 1950s, Hamm said, “Coach Alec [Alexander] wouldn’t let me play football because he was afraid I would get hurt. The way they play today, I could have kicked field goals. I never missed one in four years in high school.”
At Georgia Tech, his athletic success continued. Hamm won the Southeast Conference championship (now the Southeastern Conference) in 100- and 220-yard sprints and the long jump three years straight. In 1928, he broke the SEC record in the long jump with a leap of 25'6 ¾", won the National Intercollegiate meet, and broke the world record in the 1928 Olympic trials with a jump of 25'11 ½".
On July 31, at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, Holland, Hamm broke the Olympic record and won a gold medal with a leap of 25'4 ¾". After the Olympics, he was part of a track and field team that toured England and Germany. He won the long jump in every meet.
Hamm graduated from Georgia Tech in 1928, served as the school’s track coach for a few years, and then spent the rest of his life in private business, much of it as an executive with Coca-Cola on the West Coast and in Alaska. He was married three times—the first time to Erma Rogers, the second time to Joan (last name unknown), and the third time to Vee Adams. He and Joan had five sons.
Hamm died in June 1982 in Oregon. His ashes were scattered over his beloved Clear Lake in Oregon’s Willamette National Forest, where he had fished many times. He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1971.
For additional information:Arkansas Runner. “Arkansas Track & Field Hall of Fame, 1996 Inductees.” http://www.arkansasrunner.com/usatf-ar/1996inductees.htm (accessed June 15, 2006).
Bailey, Jim. “Lonoke’s Eddie Hamm, a World-beater in the Long Jump.” Arkansas Gazette. June 9, 1984, pp. 1C, 3C.
Charles William CunningGarland County Historical Society
Last Updated 10/19/2009
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