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Snapshot of sporting history

IN THE FRAME: Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore presents the photograph to Kerron Clement and Jillian Camerena-Williams.

A UNIQUE piece of Olympic history linking America and Birmingham has been presented to members of the USA track and field team who have based their pre-Olympic training camp in the city.

Former Birmingham MP Sir Benjamin Stone, who was also a passionate photographer, took a series of high quality photographs of the USA track and field squad for the 1908 London Games.

And among the collection is one of John Baxter Taylor Jr – the first ever African American to win an Olympic gold medal.

A framed print of the historic photograph was presented to the USA Olympic team of 2012 by Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore during a private civic reception held for the squad. The photo shows Baxter Taylor in the centre of the front row.

Birmingham Lord Mayor Councillor John Lines was also at the presentation which followed a special Olympic service at Birmingham Cathedral held for both the Jamaican and USA Track and Field athletes.

Sir Albert said: “John Baxter Taylor blazed a trail for generations of African American athletes and might well have gone on to become one of the all-time legendary figures of athletics history. Sadly, he died just month’s after Stone’s photograph was taken.

Baxter Taylor, who scooped gold in the 1908 medley relay team, died of typhoid fever in December of that year, aged just 26. In an obituary the New York Times called him ‘the world’s greatest Negro runner.’

Baxter Taylor, a qualified veterinary surgeon, was a member of the Irish American Athletics Club in New York and in a letter to his parents, team-mate Harry Porter wrote: “the fleet-footed far-framed athlete was beloved wherever he was known. As a beacon of his race, his example of achievement in athletics, scholarship and manhood will never wane.”

The framed photograph was accepted by USA’s Trinidad-born Kerron Clement, an Olympic gold medallist in the 400m hurdles, and shot putter Jillian Camerena-Williams.

Eight Olympic related images from the Stone Collection will be displayed on the Library of Birmingham hoardings near the entrance to Symphony Hall until August 9. The photographs include four images from Sir Benjamin’s visit to Olympia in 1903, an image of the London 1908 Olympic Stadium and five images of the US 1908 athletics team

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