Photo of John Mays

John MaysJohn Mays

Photo of John Mays
School: Lincoln Graduation Year: 1969

Year Inducted: 2013

Sports Played: Football, Track and Field

High School Honors: Football: 3-year letter winner. Track & Field: 3-year letter winner; 2nd in 100 and 220 Yard Dash as a Sophomore and Junior; 1st in 100 Yard Dash, 2nd in 220 Yard Dash and member of 1st place 440 Yard Relay Team in PIL and State Championships as a Senior.

Post High School Career: AA Lane Community College; track.
BA & MA Educ. University of Oregon; track.
Competed in the 100 Meters in the 1972 Olympic Trials. Coaching.


In the neighborhood where I grew up in Portland, the role models were pimps and hustlers and the “street life” and football and basketball players. These were the choices that I envisioned I had for a successful future. When I was about 12 years old I met a guy named Phil Walden, my teacher and coach at Holliday School. Mr. Walden encouraged me and others to start looking at athletics as a way to get an education and see the world. “Because,” he said, “you’re probably not going to play professional sports! If you get hurt, how are you going to take care of your family and yourself? You need an education.” His motto was, ALWAYS an eduction first! “And if you’re good enough in athletics, use your athletic skills to get a free education. And then from there, the sky is the limit. An education is the only way you can function in this world.”

From 7th grade on that was Phil Walden’s mantra to every youth he was involved with. At some point that became engrained in me. I pursued athletics to get an education and an opportunity to meet people and to travel outside of Oregon. I got my Associates Degree at Lane Community College and my BA and Master of Education at University of Oregon. Not only did I accomplish all three, I got an education, I traveled outside of Oregon and I met many people along the way.

I worked with Bill Bowerman and became the first African American sprint coach at Oregon. Bowerman told me, “John, you aren’t the fastest or the slowest, but I like you because you’re intelligent and you can relate to people.” From those experiences and encouragement from Phil Walden, I became a teacher and coach myself for 34 years. I continue to work with and pass on that same advice to my own kids and to the athletes I work with. First and foremost, get an education!

Vocationally, I coached track at Lane CC and the U of O and South Eugene HS. Thirty years with Portland Public Schools as administrator, teacher and coach. Track coach at Concordia University for six years. Volunteer coach with Albina Road Runners Sports Program for 35 years. Semi-retired, I am training athletes and lay people in fitness and wellness and continue to coach track & field with Leon McKenzie at Benson, which I have done for the past 26 years.

I am a competitive walker with Soleful Masters Walking Team which won 1st place in the Masters Division of the 2013 Portland to Coast.

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