Ronald “Ronnie” Ray Smith, a 1967 graduate of Manual Arts High and winner of a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics, has died. He was 64.
Smith attended San Jose State University during the “Speed City” era, coached by Lloyd (Bud) Winter.
At the 1968 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Championships, Smith equaled the 100-meter world record in the semifinal, repeating the same time of 9.9, which was also run by Jim Hines and Charles Greene in another semifinal of the same competition.
That evening of June 20, 1968, at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento has been dubbed by track and field historians as the “Night of Speed.” Since Green was still 19 years old at the time, that mark also became the World Junior Record, which lasted eight years.
At the Mexico Olympics, Smith ran the third leg in the American 4×100-meter relay that won the gold medal and set a new world record of 38.24 seconds.
“Ronnie Ray Smith was one of the greatest sprinters in the 100 and 220 in our era,” says his former San Jose State teammate Kirk Clayton. “He left this world satisfied with who he was, who he had become, what he accomplished and where he was going,” said Clayton, who was with Smith when he passed.
Smith died in a hospice facility in Los Angeles, on March 31, 2013. The cause of death was not given.