It was 120 years ago next Monday (May 27) that Tunkhannock resident Walter Tewksbury won the 100- and 220- yard dashes for the second year in a row at Manhattan Field in New York City, site of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of America outdoor track meet (precursor of today’s NCAA competition).
The Wilkes-Barre Record claimed Tewksbury “has won a worldwide reputation as a sprinter.”
The following year, he would bring home five medals - including two golds - from the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, France.
A native of Ashley, Tewksbury grew up in Elmira, N.Y., and Auburn Twp., Susquehanna County, and attended Wyoming Seminary.
His family moved in 1895 from Auburn Twp., to Tunkhannock, where his father - a surgeon during the Civil War - opened a medical practice.
In 1896, Walter entered a 3-year dental program at the University of Pennsylvania where he had the good fortune to meet up with legendary track coach Mike Murphy.
In addition to the IC4A sprints, earlier in January of 1899, Tewksbury - competing in Madison Square Garden - set an indoor record in the handicap 60 yard event in 6.4 seconds.
Three weeks after his wins at Manhattan Field, Tewksbury received a D.D.S. from Penn and soon after shared a dental practice in Tunkhannock with Boyd Clifford.
The Tunkhannock dentist never ran again at an Olympics following that special summer in Paris.
He retired from dentistry in 1946, but was always a fixture on the sidelines at Tunkhannock High School track meets, encouraging athletes, particularly the sprinters.
He helped organize the Wyoming County Athletic Association which sponsored a county track meet at the fairgrounds each year.
In 1922, he also took a group of Tunkhannock boys to Philadelphia for the 28th Annual Penn Relays, which the local boys won.
He died in 1968, and was the last survivor of the 1900 Olympics.