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Charles Reidpath, Olympic Champion

Charles Reidpath, war hero, civic builder and Olympic Champion, was born in Buffalo, NY 1889. His cousin Isabelle Reidpath Martin was the wife of Darwin Martin, who commissioned one of Frank LLoyd Wrights finest works, the Darwin Martin House. At Lafayette high school 1904-08 Reidpath was an outstanding track competitor, in spite of an unorthodox "flat footed" running style. It was while at Syracuse University 1908-1912 that Charles Reidpath became a collegiate track star, winning the 220 and 440 yard dashes in the 1912 intercollegiate games. He held the national intercollegiate quarter mile record for several years.

On graduating from Syracuse in 1912 with a degree in civil engineering, Charles Reidpath was pressured by relatives to quit sports and take a position with the family business in Buffalo. Instead, he made the U.S. Olympic track team, and headed to Stockholm, Sweden for one of the finest Olympics ever held. Reidpath won the 400 meters in an Olympic record shattering time of 48.2 seconds. This record lasted until 1924, when it was broken by Eric Liddle, whose story was made famous by the movie "Chariots of fire". Running the anchor leg of the 4x400 meter relay, Reidpath helped the U.S. team set a world record of 3:16.6.

The 400 meter contest was thrilling and controversial. The semifinals were held without lanes for individual runners, and the result was a confrontation between German champion Hanns Braun and American runner Donnell Young. Braun allegedly cut Young off, and Young retaliated by ramming Braun to the outside. Officials disqualified Young, so the finals came down to the American, Charles Reidpath vs Hanns Braun. In the finals (run in lanes, naturally) Braunn took the lead at about 200 meters. However, Charles Reidpath caught him on the home stretch, and won the Gold medal for the U.S. by less than a yard.

The 4x400 meter relay was not as closely contested. Reidpath told the Buffalo Courier-Express that his teammates "were so far out in front that by the time it came for me to take over, the race was just about over too". In fact, Reidpath ran the anchor leg and helped the American team to set a World record of 3:16.6, a record that lasted for 12 years. After the games, Charles Reidpath donated both of his gold medals to Syracuse University.

Away form sports, Charles Reidpath worked for the Berdencer construction company from 1912 through 1937, when he was named director of buildings for Buffalo, NY. He spent 15 years with the city department of public works, and in 1956 was superintendent of construction for architects on the Federal reserve bank project.

Reidpath also had an outstanding military career. As a Lt. Colonel he served in England, France and Belgium in the Transportation corps during World War II winning battle stars for the Northern France and Rheinland campaigns. The prince regent of Belgium made him an Officer of the Crown for his services as port engineer in Antwerp in 1944 and 1945. Charles Reidpath was made a Brig. General upon his retirement from the New York National Guard in 1948.

Charles Reidpath passed away on October 21, 1975 in Kenmore Mercy Hospital after a brief illness. He was 86 years old. He was survived by his wife, the former Sally Pratt, two children, five grand-children and five great-grand children. Reidpaths accomplishments in the 1912 Olympics were somewhat overshadowed by the even greater feats of Jim Thorpe, winner of the decathlon and heptathlon, but his place in track and field history is secure. In the early 21st century, two of Reidpaths nephews, Dick and Ted Sullivan, were still active in Buffalo area track and field, even though they were both in their 70's.


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