While researching Lillian Copeland for last week’s entry, your correspondent learned that Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller both had birthdays in August: Glickman’s August 14, 1917, and Stoller’s August 8, 1915. We noted that Ms. Copeland boycotted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, based on Chancellor Adolph Hitler’s banning Jewish athletes from Germany’s teams. Stoller and Glickman did not boycott, they were part of the 66-person U.S. team, eighteen of whom were Black. Messrs. Stoller and Glickman were the only two Jews on the team, and they were two of the four chosen for the relay team. They diligently practiced the choreography of running and passing the baton for two solid weeks prior to the Olympic event.
The morning of the event, which was Mr. Stoller’s 21st birthday, Coach Lawson Robertson called a meeting in which he declared that there was some intelligence that the Germans were hiding their best athletes and therefore the relay lineup would be changed. In a 2000 interview for the American Jewish Historical Society a few months before he passed away, Mr. Glickman said Robertson announced that Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe—who both had already competed and medaled—would be replacing Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller to run with Frank Wykoff and Foy Draper, with whom they had been practicing. “It was a complete shock to all of us,” Glickman would recall, “including Jesse and Ralph.”
The first person to speak up about this change was Jesse Owens, who immediately said, “Coach, I’ve won my three gold medals, the 100, the 200, and the long jump. Let Marty and Sam run, they deserve it.” The coach pointed a finger at him, and said, “You’ll do as you’re told.”
Then Glickman, at age 18 the youngest of the group, spoke up. “Coach, there is no way the German team can beat us.” He analyzed the German team aloud and, he said, there was no question that they could each beat the best of the German team. He added, “Coach, there’s bound to be a furor about this back home, because we’re the only two Jewish boys on the American Track and Field Team, and we’ll be the only two who don’t get to compete.” Coach Robertson said, “We’ll worry about that when we get back there.”
In his 2000 interview, Glickman stated that although he had no proof, he had heard that Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Reich Minister of Propaganda, had informed Avery Brundage, the head of the 1936 Olympic Team, that Hitler would be displeased if Jews competed. Glickman said that Brundage passed the message to the coaches. Brundage had printed in an American Olympic Committee pamphlet that American athletes should not involve themselves in “the present Jew-Nazi altercation,” and about the boycott he said that the effort was part of a “Jewish-Communist conspiracy.” Glickman noted that Brundage would become an organizer, founder, and officer of the America First Committee, and that assistant track coach Dean Cromwell was also a member of the Committee in California. (The America First Committee opposed entry into WWII claiming to support isolationism for its own sake, but anti-Semitic and pro-fascist instigators were the leaders.)
Stoller and Glickman did not compete, the only healthy athletes to go to the Olympics and not participate. Sam Stoller would go on to try his hand at a singing career (and passed away in 1985), and Marty Glickman became eminently successful as a sports broadcaster.
Marty raced against Frank Wykoff in Paris after the ’36 Olympics, and won. In fact, in 1963, at age 46, he lined up and ran against all the New York Giants running backs, winning. So his running skill was never in question.
Glickman and Jesse Owens became lifelong friends. In 1980, he sadly flew to Chicago for Owens’ funeral, arriving after it had begun, and there sitting together were the Black athletes from 1936. They waved him over to join them. To Glickman’s dismay and disappointment, no other white athletes showed up.