Joshua Culbreath - Marine Vet and Olympic Hero
by U.S. Marine Corps Ashley Boster
Joshua Culbreath, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Olympic hero, passed away
on July 1, 2021. Culbreath was 88 years old.
Top Left - U.S. Marine Corps Pvt. Joshua
Culbreath earns the Bronze Medal for third place third place
in the 400 meter hurdles during the1956 Olympic Games" in
Melbourne, Australia ... Right - Pvt. Joshua Culbreath,
"Quantico’s gift to the 1956 Olympic Games" in Melbourne,
Australia, with some of the presents he brought home. In his
hand is his Bronze Medal for third place in the 400 meter
hurdles ... Bottom Left - Joshua Culbreath (center) with
Gen. James T. Conway (left) and Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent
(right) accepts his induction into the U.S. Marine Corps
Sports Hall of Fame on an undiscloed date.. (Image created
by USA Patriotism! from photos courtesy of Joshua Culbreath's
September 14,1932, to Jesse and Anna B. Culbreath, and raised in the
tiny coal town of Norristown, Pennsylvania, Joshua Culbreath
conveyed a lifelong history of athletic excellence.
an amazing man, loved to talk, and always had a story to tell. He
loved to talk about his memorable high school and college days, his
childhood years, being a Quantico Marine, and, of course, his
Olympian days,” said Cynthia Culbreath, cousin of Joshua Culbreath.
He was a young track star through his school aged years and
in 1948, found himself best qualified as a hurdler during his junior
year at Norristown High School.
Continuing to Morgan State
College, Culbreath worked closely with Edward P. Hurt, known to be
one of the world’s greatest track coaches, where he started to gain
Culbreath, a trailblazer of his time, began to
travel abroad for competitions to other countries like Italy,
Ireland, and Scotland. There he competed in the 400m hurdles;
continuing to set new records along the way.
successes continued as he competed and won gold medals in the 1955
and 1959 Pan American Games.
In 1956, he enlisted into the
United States Marine Corps where he served on active duty at Marine
Corps Base Quantico, Virginia for three years.
“Josh was a
die-hard Semper Fi Marine man!” said Cynthia. “That's all he talked
about in his life, telling stories of Marine life.”
young Marine, Culbreath continued competing in the All-Marine Track
and Field Championships, setting new Marine Corps and Inter-Service
records. He traveled overseas to Berlin with the Armed Forces team
to compete, and there, won several military and NATO track and field
Culbreath was considered “Quantico’s gift to the 1956
Olympic Games” and rightfully so, landing him the bronze medal in
the 400m hurdles in the 1956 Melbourne, Australia Olympic Games.
Following the 1956 Olympic Games, Joshua Culbreath said, "As I
stood there on the victory stand with Glenn Davis and Eddie
Southern, I had a proud feeling run through me which I’d never felt
before. As we stood there, they raised the American flags (ones for
each of us), then played the Star-Spangled Banner, nothing I
believe, can ever replace our National Anthem to make one proud he’s
an American. Every one of our American athletes who took that
victory stand will bear me out on that.”
In an article
written by Staff Sgt. John Mahoney, in October of 1956, Mahoney
emphasized that Culbreath feels that sports, and for him track, has
had a bearing on making him a better Marine.
competitive spirit which helps a man both in the world of running
and combat needs a mentally and physically conditioned man. Through
his Marine training and track training, he feels he can qualify
better as a defender of his country,” said Mahoney.
Culbreath received his Master of Arts degree in education from
Temple University. In 1988, he went on to coach track and field at
Ohio’s Central State University. It was during this time that he
coached his team to 10 National Association of Intercollegiate
Athletics (NAIA) championships.
Four of his athletes
competed in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia; to include
the 400m hurdles gold medalist, Deon Hemmings. Culbreath, and his
track team, were invited to the White House Rose Garden and honored
by President Bill Clinton in June 1993.
After his coaching
career, Culbreath later became the athletic director at Morehouse
College in Atlanta.
Culbreath made guest appearances on “The
Cosby Show”, playing the character of Col. Sanford B. “Tailwind”
Turner, Cliff Huxtable’s college track rival.
In 1994, he
was inducted into the Penn Relays Track and Field Wall of Fame. He
was also inducted into multiple other Halls of Fame and won
countless awards and accolades, during his career.
was an inspiration to many; he was a Marine, Olympian, teacher, and
In the words of Staff Sgt. John Mahoney, “Champions,
like fighting men are made not born. It's a man's will to be the
greatest…hard training, and few breaks.”
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