Honoring Black History: Mind, Body, Spirit
ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) — A high-profile athlete was unable to graduate with his classmates because of the color of his skin, his name is Owen Smaulding. Known as one of Albuquerque High’s greatest athletes, he accomplished great things despite facing racism and oppression. “He’s one of those people I like to address when we talk about tradition here at Albuquerque High School,” said Tim Johnson, AHS football coach.
Owen Smaulding lives on at Albuquerque High and has a plaque with pictures in his honor. Smaulding dominated in track and field, basketball, baseball and soccer at 5ft 11in and 170 pounds. His talent at fullback helped defeat the University of New Mexico in 1917. Tim Johson explains that even as an athlete, he’s not sure he could have played basketball and soccer or even track and baseball at the same time without getting exhausted tells you what kind of athlete he was mentally and physically.
Smaulding set many records, with seven touchdowns in an unbeaten season, eight state lane records, and one that has lasted nearly 40 years is his 10-second, 100-yard dash in 1918. In his three years he accumulated 17 first places, scored 107 points in three consecutive encounters and even surpassed entire teams. “I think the only two people that come to mind when I think of these types of athletes who can do anything are Jim Brown and Bo Jackson,” Johnson says.
Smaulding achieved all of this in his junior year, but he was eligible to compete in his senior year, having enrolled late from conscripting and serving in the Army for five months during his junior and senior years. This resulted in his teammates not attending the state meet because they all agreed it was unfair. “That would educate you about his character and what he means to those around him,” Johnson explains.
Smaulding went to college, where he developed a love for baseball and formed a connection with Negro League Baseball, playing for three teams in five seasons while banned from playing in the major leagues. This leaves everyone wondering what could have been if they could play.
Owen Smaulding eventually retired from baseball and taught in Jackson, Mississippi for five years, then ran a printing company in Chicago. In 1961, Smaulding died at the age of 65, and Albuquerque High honored him by naming him an All-Time Athlete of the Class of 1919. They named their high school “The Smaulding Center” in 1977. He was also inducted into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.