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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  March, 2008

Did You Know?
By Al Owens

…In the spring of 1963, a heavyweight boxing champion of the world exacted brutality upon my person. I didn’t complain though. In fact, I was slightly bruised, but honored.

I was one of the young guests at a testimonial dinner for Fairchance-Georges High School basketball star Ken Goldsmith at John Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church in May of that year.

Without warning, a group of men came into the dinning area, and one of them just happened to be former heavyweight champ, Jersey Joe Walcott. He was making several stops on a publicity tour through Fayette County, and that event was one of them.

Walcott patiently shook the hands of every kid in the place. But curiously, when he got to me, he seemed to take special pleasure in squeezing my hand until I could no longer feel it.

I would have jumped up to defend myself, but he’d long before shown he possessed enough boxing skill to beat me to a pulp. That’s when he won his championship against Ezzard Charles in Pittsburgh in March of 1951.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that local visit by Mr. Walcott to Fayette County Detective Lawrence Curry. He remembers it too.

A few minutes after Walcott joined us at that dinner, he walked a few feet west on Main Street to the Curry-Dyson VFW. Curry was there and he saw Walcott too.
Did you know that Connellville’s Olympic champion John Woodruff was really the third on the list of Olympians from Fayette County?

The first, swimmer Paul Wyatt won a total of two medals at two Olympic Games.
Wyatt had already been an A.A.U. National Champion when he won the silver medal in the 100 meter backstroke at the Olympic Games in France in 1924.

One of Wyatt’s teammates on the 1924 team, multi-gold medalist Johnny Weismuller, would later gain international fame when he starred in 12 Tarzan, and 16 Jungle Jim movies.

In fact, Wyatt and Weismuller became friends after 1925, when Weismuller came to Uniontown and swam in a exhibition at the YMCA in downtown Uniontown. Meanwhile, Wyatt broke one of Weismuller’s swimming records and set an unofficial world record in the 100 yard backstroke.

Wyatt wasn’t finished yet. In 1928, he joined Weismuller again, at the Olympic Games – this time at Amsterdam. Wyatt won a bronze medal in the 100 meter backstroke.
Wyatt actually shared the Olympic spotlight with another movie star – Clarence “Buster” Crabbe. Crabbe won a bronze swimming medal in 1928.

He’d later go on and star in over a hundred movies and television shows, including his best known role as Captain Gallant (of the Foreign Legion)

Fayette County’s second Olympic participant was 1930 Uniontown High School graduate and highly popular welterweight amateur boxer Charles Cravotta.

He’d earned a spot on the 1932 Olympic team held in Los Angeles. Although he made the team, he was selected as an alternate who did not fight in the games. He didn’t get a chance to show considerable his talents then, but he’d also boxed his way to a Junior National A.A.U. championship along the way.

Did you know that a man named Martin Luther King was once an honored guest in Uniontown? That’s true, and I’ll tell you all about that next week.