March 3, 1973 William Delouis Watson, the first African American to win the United States decathlon championship, died.
Watson was born December 18, 1916 in Boley, Oklahoma, but raised in Saginaw, Michigan.
He enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1935 and dominated his events from 1937 to 1939, winning Big Ten Championships in the long jump, shot put, and discus all three years. He also set several Michigan and Big Ten Conference records. Watson was so dominant in so many events that he became known as “the University of Michigan’s one-man track team.”
In his senior year, Watson was elected captain of the track team, the first African American captain of any sports team in U. of M. history. In 1940, he became the first African American to win the U. S. decathlon championship. He repeated as champion in 1943. Watson joined the Detroit Police Department in 1941 and served until his retirement in 1966. He was posthumously inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1982.