Johnson, Albritton, and Thurber’s Patriotic and Defiant Bellamy Salute in Response to Hitler’s Snub at Berlin in 1936

Submitted by Raymond T Stefani, Ph. D.*

Dr. Raymond Stefani is an emeritus professor of Engineering at the California State University, Long Beach, USA. His more than 120 sports publications are evenly divided between individual and team sports. He seeks a fundamental understanding of the physics, physiology, causes of gender differential performance, rates of improvement, effect of historical events and effects of performance enhancing drugs related to Olympic gold medal performances in athletics (track and field), swimming, rowing and speed skating. He has analyzed Olympic home nation medal advantage He developed a least squared team rating system applied to predicting the outcome of more than 20,000 games of American football, basketball, European soccer, Australian Rules football, and Super Rugby. Home advantage has been studied in those contexts. He has contributed to the understanding of the types and application of 100 international sport rating systems (both for individuals and teams) and their ability to predict the outcome of world and Olympic championship events. He contributed to the millennium edition of the New York Times. He has presented his work to eleven organizations conducting conferences in ten nations on three continents. Dr. Stefani invites collaboration with colleagues from around the world.


Stepping to the podium for the last medal ceremony on August 2, 1936, day one of athletics competition at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, were the three Americans that swept the men’s long jump: Cornelius Johnson (gold), David Albritton (silver) and Delos Thurber (bronze). Johnson and Albritton were black. That ceremony formed a watershed for those Games: Hitler had personally congratulated all of the earlier winners on August 2, 1936; but, he left before that medal ceremony and ceased to congratulate winners starting on day two, rather than congratulate all future winners. Hitler was told to congratulate all winners or no winners by the IOC President after his non-attendance at the men’s long jump medal ceremony.  It was on day two that Jesse Owens won the 100-meter run and was not congratulated. Public attention then shifted to Owens, removing attention from the actual snub of Johnson, Albritton, and Thurber that had led to action by the IOC President. This paper interprets two photos of the three Americans saluting in unison, but with two different postures:  an American military salute and a straight-armed salute with palms turned upward. To understand their salute, three contexts were studied: salutes performed at the Games, activities leading up to that moment on August 2, 1936 and the American flag-saluting practice of that era. Johnson, Albritton, and Thurber were arguably making an elegant yet forceful statement of solidarity and defiance in performing the Bellamy or Flag Salute, a unique-at-those-Games act of patriotism little known in the present but, none-the-less an act deserving of recognition.

Key words: 1936 Olympics, Hitler’s snub, Bellamy Salute, Cornelius Johnson, David Albrittion, Delos Thurber, Jesse Owens. (more…)