Help honor Hall of Famer Nick Newton at a celebration May 22

Nick Newton showed off his blocks at the 1998 Mt. SAC Relays.

When I began masters competition in 1995, Milton “Nick” Newton was just this genial guy in the high jump — a friendly flopper in his early 60s! He gave me support and inspiration. Little did I know he was a legend and future Masters Hall of Famer. A WAVA world champion and World Masters Games gold medalist several times over, Nick also was a world-class sprinter who invented the starting blocks that bear his name. In December 1976, he and three dozen others, including John Carlos, were part of a U.S.-Aussie delegation that effectively integrated South African track and field. They competed in the first mixed-race meet of the apartheid era — having been invited by the S. Africans after David Pain and others fought for their inclusion in the 1975 world masters championships in Toronto. Since about 2004, however, Nick has been out of the game. He survived testicular cancer years before, but he’s still battling illness at age 76. He lives near the Salton Sea in California’s Imperial Valley. But he’s far from forgotten. On May 22, he’ll be honored at a restaurant in Pomona. It’s a surprise. (I’m told he doesn’t have a computer.)

For a PDF version of this party invitation, click on the image.

This recognition party is the brainchild of longtime friend George Cohen. George’s wife, Nona, and another Nick friend, Rufus Morris, are planning the event.

They hope to have a slide show depicting Nick’s life, so if you happen to have any photos of Nick, let me know, or write directly to George, Nona or Rufus.

If you can’t come but would like to have your recollections included at the event, send me a note or post them here.

Nick is ranked among the all-time best M55, M60 and M65 high jumpers in the world. He jumped 1.77 (5-9 3/4) at 1989 Eugene worlds in the M55 age group. He had an M60 best of 1.69 (5-6 1/2) and an M65 best of 1.60 (5-3). He also was a perpetual national contender in the sprints and ran 11.8 (hand-timed) in 1991 in his late 50s. He also dabbled in the hurdles. He was just a phenomenal athlete — even though he started in his 40s.

Here’s a biography of Nick written by George Cohen:

America is full of great stories and one of the many that typifies the pride and promise of this wonderful country is that of Milton Alexander Newton. Born on November 6, 1933, in Tarboro, North Carolina, the son of parents who instilled in him an appreciation for the importance of God, family, country and education. “Nick,” as he is known to all of his friends, decided that he needed to honor his family, develop his independence and contribute in some way to his community. He joined the U.S. Army and served with honor during the Korean conflict.

On a visit to California, he met Sheila, his wife of 53 years, and was immediately taken by her beauty, intelligence and personality. There was no returning to North Carolina at that point. They married and had two children, Daren and Pam. After his discharge from the Army, Nick obtained employment with Waste King where he learned the skill and art of tool and die making.

When his daughter, Pam, began participating in track and field, demonstrating exceptional talent, Nick became excited by her demonstrated ability and potential and, in an effort to accelerate her progress as a sprinter and hurdler, Nick pulled his tool and die making expertise into play and invented the Newton Blocks. This invention propelled him into instant international prominence as his starting blocks rapidly became the choice of many high schools and colleges nationally, as well as numerous foreign sports programs.

Recognizing his fascination with her competition, his daughter Pam encouraged Nick to become involved as a Masters (over 40) athlete. Nick became a sprinter setting several age group national and world records at 200 and 400 meters as well as the high jump. As a Nike-sponsored athlete he toured and competed as a member of the U.S. team in many foreign countries including, Finland, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Italy, and China.

His affable personality made him a natural ambassador of American goodwill and sportsmanship. In 1976, in an arrangement spearheaded by then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Nick was a member of the U.S. team that competed in South Africa during the era of apartheid, after an agreement was reached establishing integrated masters competition for the first time between the two countries. In China, he presented the Chinese national team with a generous supply of his blocks. The 1984 Olympics were promoted with photos of the great decathlete Rafer Johnson using Newton blocks and, a resemblance of Jesse Owens with Newton Blocks is displayed in the Smithsonian Institute.

With an understanding of physical disabilities, Nick invented blocks to accommodate the disabled. He became a coach, mentor and singular support system to many aspiring athletes with special attention to those trying to overcome cancer and other limiting afflictions.

Basking in the platinum shadow of this unique American athlete, inventor, entrepreneur, ambassador of humanity, USATF Masters Hall of Fame member are his two children, eight grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and numerous friends and admirers around the world.

Nick clears bar during a late 1990s meet, possibly at UC Irvine. His approach run was a thing of beauty. (Photo by Ken Stone)

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April 23, 2010

7 Responses

  1. NOLAN SHAHEED - April 23, 2010

    Nick has been a great friend and inspiration to me ever since I started running Masters Track.He always encouraged me to do better than I thought I could do and watching him compete was a wonderful experience.

    I will be at this function in May and it is WONDERFUL to honor someone you love while he is still alive and able to appreciate that love.

  2. Andrea Lynch - May 2, 2010

    Wow, nick was such an inspiration to me, being one of the faster starters in the world, using Nicks blocks enhanced my sprinting tremendously.. It will be an honor to celebrate with him.
    Andrea Lynch MBE
    Great Britain

  3. Gwen Loud Johnson - May 8, 2010

    Nick Newton was a major inspiration in my track & field career. I have great memories of being picked up and taken to practice, donuts after practice and visits from Nick and Shelia no matter were I was living or commpeting. Nick is what track & field is all about. I love, honor and cherish Nick & his supportive wife Shelia. THANKS NICK!

    Love Ya,
    Gwen Loud-Johnson
    CA State Champ. NCCA Champ, World Champ Member, Pan America Member and 5 X Olympic Trials Finalist

  4. Bill Adler - May 11, 2010

    Nick & I grew up together in Masters track & field in the early 70’s. Nick was the most natural runner I have ever seen. When Nick rounded the turn and headed for home in the 400M or 200M he was “pure poetry in motion”. Nick grew up in the country,in North Carolina. He never had the opportunity to compete when he was a young man or he definitely would have been “world Class” & probably an Olympian. Don’t know if I ever told him that I love him, but I do. Thanks Nick for a great 35 Years. Nick is the best and I will be there on the 22nd to honor him. Your brother, from a different mother, Bill

  5. Bill Adler - May 11, 2010

    Nick & I grew up together in Masters track & field in the early 70’s. Nick was the most natural runner I have ever seen. When Nick rounded the turn and headed for home in the 400M or 200M he was “pure poetry in motion”. Don’t know if I ever told him that I love him, but I do. Your brother, Bill

  6. Darren a Newton jr grandson - May 21, 2010

    I’m Nick’s 2nd oldest grandson. I’m honored for my grandfather to be awarded for his gratitude and love for a sport he cherished a lot. For those that know Papa Nick know he’s a giving person and a loving person, always willing to help other people as well as my grandmother Sheila. All these years I’ve watched him compete and train as well as coach others — that was his life. You know I’m very proud of him. It brings me to tears as I look at these pictures that is displayed of him on this website, fond memories of the grandpa that I miss so much. My grandpa is a fighter. He’s been fighting a terrible illness that stops him from his sport he enjoys but he’s not bitter. He takes every day as a blessing and lives life to the fullest — no complaints just laughter and smiles and jokes that’s nick. But we can’t forget about that famous swagg he has and that can of beer he enjoys. This is well-deserved and due. Thank you grandpa for your wisdom and love. I’m honored and proud of you. Lil Darren. Also thanks to those in the track world who decided to honor nicky baby for this great award. Thank you. The Newton family appreciates you all with love.

  7. sheilanewton - February 12, 2012

    Down but not out. See new invention the jogging stroller video.

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