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Bill Bowerman

AKA William J. Bowerman

Born: 19-Feb-1911
Birthplace: Portland, OR
Died: 24-Dec-1999
Location of death: Fossil, OR
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Christian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Fitness Guru, Business
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Track coach, Co-Founder of Nike

Military service: US Army, to Major (1941-45)

Bill Bowerman ran on the University of Oregon track team in his last two years as a student at the college, then worked for fourteen years as a journalist and part-time high school track coach. In 1948 he was hired to coach track and field at his alma mater, and over the next two decades he had phenomenal success, bringing NCAA championships to the university in 1962, 1964, 1965, and 1970, and coaching 24 individual champions and 31 Olympic athletes. He also coached the US Olympic team in 1972.

In 1964 he invested $500 with a former runner at Oregon, Phil Knight, to co-found Blue Ribbon Sports (now Nike). His 1967 best-seller Jogging helped popularize that form of exercise in America. As Nike's first Director of Research and Development, Bowerman designed the company's perennially popular Cortez running shoe in 1968, with total "toe to heel" cushioning and waffle-soles. By the time Nike went public in 1980, Bowerman's $500 investment was worth about $9M.

Bowerman's twin brother was killed in a gruesome elevator accident when he was two years old, when his clothing was snagged through the door's wrought-iron grill by something in the elevator shaft, crushing the toddler against the ceiling as the elevator went down and his nanny screamed. His father, Jay Bowerman, was a two-term Oregon state senator who served as the state's Acting Governor from June 1910 to January 1911, but his career and marriage were ended by a scandalous affair. Bill Bowerman ran for the state legislature as a Republican in 1970, but was defeated. He was played by Donald Sutherland in the 1998 film Without Limits, which dramatized Coach Bowerman's fiery relationship with his most famous runner, Steve Prefontaine.

Father: Jay Bowerman (Oregon Governor, b. 15-Aug-1876, d. 25-Oct-1957)
Mother: Elizabeth Hoover Bowerman ("Lizzie", m. 1903, div.)
Brother: Daniel Bowerman (b. 21-Jan-1906)
Sister: Mary Elizabeth Bowerman (b. 28-Feb-1908)
Brother: Thomas Bowerman (twin b. 19-Feb-1911, d. 1913 elevator accident)
Mother: Wayfe Hockett Bowerman (stepmother, b. 1885)
Daughter: Jayne Bowerman Hall
Daughter: Sally Bowerman (b. 23-Mar-1923, d. 14-Apr-2004)
Wife: Barbara Young Bowerman (high school sweetheart, m. 22-Jun-1936)
Son: Jon Bowerman (b. 22-Jun-1938)
Son: William J. Bowerman, Jr. (b. 17-Nov-1942)
Son: Thomas Bowerman (b. 20-May-1946)

    High School: Medford High School, Medford, OR
    University: BA Journalism, University of Oregon (1934)
    Coach: Track and Field, University of Oregon (1948-73)

    Bronze Star (four times, World War II)
    Silver Star
    Nike Co-Founder, Director of Research and Development (1964-72)
    Member of the Board of Nike (1972-99)
    National Track & Field Hall of Fame 1981
    National Distance Running Hall of Fame 2002
    English Ancestry

Author of books:
Jogging (1967, with Waldo Harris)
High Performance Training for Track and Field (1991, with William Freeman)
Sports Illustrated Track & Field Events (1977, with Bobbie Conlan Moore)
Coaching Track and Field (1974)

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