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Olympic Legend and American Hero Rafer Johnson Dead at 86 — inside His Life and Career

Gracious Egedegbe
Dec 03, 2020
08:18 A.M.

Rafer Johnson, the decorated Olympic legend who, in the past, helped subdue the assassin that murdered the then-president, has just passed away – he was 86.

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The world lost one of its gems when Rafer Johnson died at his home in Sherman Oaks, CA. He was 86 and he died on Wednesday morning surrounded by his family.

Johnson's life was highly eventful, and he no doubt died a satisfied man. Among some of his many feats is one that won him the title of "national hero."

Rafer Johnson arrives at the charity screening of 'Draft Day' at Big Newport Theater on April 3, 2014. | Photo: Getty Images

Rafer Johnson arrives at the charity screening of 'Draft Day' at Big Newport Theater on April 3, 2014. | Photo: Getty Images

He was reportedly one of the courageous men who brought down shooter Sirhan Sirhan shortly after then-president Robert Kennedy was murdered at the Ambassador Hotel in 1968.

The Olympian reportedly got the gun out of Sirhan's hand and hid it in his pocket to prevent the violence from escalating.

After the competition, Johnson went into retirement, where he branched out into different things, including acting.

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As an athlete, Johnson also made his mark on the world of sports. He made records in the famous Olympic decathlon a total of three times amid serious competition with Vasily Kuznetsov and C.K Yang, one of his UCLA teammates.

His last decathlon was at the 1960 Olympics, which was held in Rome. Johnson won a gold medal in the event, which is now regarded as one of the most exceptional finishes to a decathlon.

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After the competition, Johnson went into retirement, where he branched out into different things, including acting. He appeared in movies like "Wild in the Country" and "Licence to Kill."

Johnson and his wife Betsy tied the knot in 1971. The couple welcomed two kids together, Jennifer Ann and Joshua Ray. Both kids grew up to follow in their father's steps, becoming star athletes at UCLA. RIP Johnson!

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