The Olympic spirit will always be a part of downtown Tyler.
Tyler sprinter Robert Taylor, who claimed gold and silver at the 1972 Summer Games, was honored with a Half Mile of History marker on Tuesday.
The 1968 Emmett J. Scott High School graduate was honored as many family members and friends were on hand for the ceremony at Gallery Main Street.
Mayor Martin Heines said Taylor’s marker is the 56th stone to be placed in the Heart of Tyler.
“Mr. Taylor is a legend in our community as an athlete and person,” Heines said. “We are proud to honor him today.”
Amber Rojas, Historic Preservation officer and Main Street manager, read the accomplishments of the Texas Southern University graduate, who taught in Tyler at Hogg Middle School and in the Houston area. He died in 2007 while he was a teacher in Missouri City.
Among the speakers were Taylor’s daughter, Cecileé Taylor, brothers Elvin and Arthur, cousin Bobbie Bowie and KLTV sports director Michael Coleman. Taylor’s son is Bobby Taylor, a former football player at Notre Dame and with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. The family thanked the city of Tyler for honoring their father and brother.
Mrs. Bowie noted that Taylor's mother, Gwendolyn, was a sprinter who broke records at Prairie View A&M University.
Charles Christopher, a teammate of Taylor’s at both Emmett Scott and TSU, said when he sees the movie “The Natural” he thinks of his friend, whom he described as very humble.
Taylor finished second in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.24 seconds at the Munich Olympics, just a step behind the Soviet Union’s Valery Borzov (10.14).
He then ran the second leg for the gold-medal-winning 400-meter relay team, expanding the lead over the Italian team as he handed off the baton. Other members of the relay were Larry Black, Eddie Hart and Gerald Tinker. The squad ran a time of 38.19, beating second-place USSR (38.50). The gold medal clocking equaled the USA’s world record time.
Taylor is the only Tylerite to capture Olympic medals.
He won the sprints at the Prairie View Interscholastic League state track and field championships. He was a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American at TSU. Taylor is a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame, the PVIL Coaches Hall of Fame and was an inaugural member of the Tyler ISD Athletic Hall of Fame.
Heines said on some stones there is a code where you may take a photo with your phone and see a video about the honoree.
“Tyler has grown so much, there are so many new people here, we would love for them to get to know the history of our community,” Heines said. “It is hard to know where you are going if you don’t have a good understanding of your past.”
The goal of the Half Mile of History is to pay tribute to people, places and events that have contributed to the history of Tyler and Smith County.
The Half Mile of History is a permanent, outdoor half-mile loop that surrounds the square in downtown as well as the Smith County Courthouse.