Lee Evans, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and human rights activist, died Wednesday, U.S. Track and Field announced. He was 74.
A Fresno, Calif. native, Evans starred in track at San Jose State alongside future Olympic teammate Tommie Smith, winning the NCAA championship in 1968. He set multiple world records in the run-up to the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, but saved his best performance for the sports’ biggest stage.
Evans’ mark of 43.86 seconds in the 400-meter dash shattered his own world record of 44.06 seconds, and stood as the record for nearly 20 years:
The medal ceremony for the race was impactful as well, as the all-African American podium of Evans, Larry James and Ron Freeman donned black berets in a nod to the Black Panther Party.
Evans’ activism dated back to San Jose State, where he and Smith were among the leaders of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. After calling for a boycott of the Olympics, the OPHR’s badges could be seen on the jackets of Smith and John Carlos as they famously made a Black Power salute during the medal ceremony of the 200-meter race.