Rafer Johnson

  • Died: December 2, 2020
  • Location:


Olympic decathlon legend

Rafer Johnson won the decathlon gold medal at the 1960 Olympic games in Rome. For full obituary and coverage from Legacy.com, click here.

Condolence & Memory Journal

God is a God of all Comfort and he will Comfort the family's..My condolence..

Posted by Jimmy Crawley - Richmond, VA   June 16, 2021

I am very sorry for the loss of such a great legend. Please accept the condolences of my family. May mercy, peace and love be increased to you. (Jude 2)

Posted by Lea    May 10, 2021

I remember Rafer Johnson from the special Olympics back in the day at UCLA

Posted by Caren Miller - Deerfield Beach, FL - Acquaintance   March 15, 2021

LEGENDARY decathlete 1960 OLYMPIC GOLD Medalist, Americans will always remember you representing us in the USA and winning the greatest honor bringing home the GOLD MEDAL. U will forever remain in the history books because of this accomplishment...Such class and grace u showed millions Thank U.....(RIP)... Prayers & Blessings ❤

Posted by Valenda Newell - Indianapolis, IN   January 22, 2021

May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times together as you celebrate a life well lived.

Posted by David Glick - Lido Beach, NY   December 27, 2020

Please accept my sincere condolences on the loss of your dear loved one,may the family find comfort in God's word st jihn5:28,29

Posted by - New york, NY   December 25, 2020

Having grown up with the Johnson family in the small town of Kingsburg and sharing the experiences from childhood to adulthood in our small community, our hearts are saddened as we learn of Rafer’s passing. So many memories as we grew up together and shared life’s precious gifts. We do believe that as we pass through this life to the next that one day we will be reunited with Rafer and the wonderful Johnson family in a place of everlasting peace and love.
The Harrison Family

Posted by Marvin Harrison - Fresno, CA - friend   December 14, 2020


FLY HIGHER STAND STRAIGHT U.S.A. ALL THE WAY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ENJOY , YOUR HOLIDAYS TO YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!! SIR #1 JAMES 3:01-3:18 .............

Posted by EDWARD DAVID CULLEN - ATTLEBORO, MA   December 13, 2020


May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.

Posted by Alishia - SC   December 12, 2020

As Principal of Rafer Johson School in Bakersfield, CA I was honored to know and spend time with Rafer. His enthusiasm and support for our special needs school was unparalleled. He gladly attended many events over the years and cheered on our children at local Special Olympics gatherings.
His character, dedication and care was evident to all who came in contact with him.
I am proud to have known Rafer and called him my friend.
Ron Titus

Posted by Ron Titus - Friend   December 10, 2020

Our condolences go out to the family of Rafer Johnson. What a athlete. He will always be remembered in Olympic history. So sorry for your loss.

Posted by Lee - Neighbor   December 08, 2020

May the love of friends and family carry you through your grief.

Posted by Anonymous... Gary, IN    December 08, 2020


You paved the way for the rest can follow and we thank you. May continue to bless this family in Jesus name.

Posted by Gloria Steagall - Anniston, AL   December 07, 2020

Praying for the family & friends!!!

Posted by Ethel Richardson - Birmingham, AL - grandchild   December 06, 2020

Mr Johnson, you did the
US proud. Now it’s time for you to rest with the heavenly angels
They will embrace you with an abundance of love. Our lord is waiting with open arms.
RIp Sir. Condolences to family, friends and everyone that loves you. My family did.

Posted by A friend   December 06, 2020

Our deepest condolences to Betsy, the children and the grand children. A great athlete and a gentleman. I'm happy to have met you sir.

Posted by Wayne THORPE - Scottsdale, AZ - friend   December 06, 2020

Rest in peace, you did an excellent job and now you can rest.

Posted by Peter Hall    December 06, 2020

After a lifetime of personal memories of Rafer, it is heartbreaking to read of his death. Very few people in this world could have accomplished what he did or been the terrific human being he was. Sincere condolences to his wife and family, Barbara Seeley Burrows

Posted by Barbara Seeley Burrows - Friend   December 06, 2020

I am deeply sorry for your loss, may memories of him be a blessing. I cried when he won the gold in Rome. It is a true loss for sports because he was such a sportsman and lived up to his legacy as an ambassador for sports. RIP Mr. Johnson!

Posted by M. Bilson - Madison, NJ   December 06, 2020

Thank you for your selfless devotion to your country and sport. You taught me to believe in myself and live up to this democratic nation's ideals. My family and I are grateful for everything you changed as the face of Americans in Rome. Like President Obama, you were the very first. God bless your family during their time of loss.

Posted by T.B.    December 06, 2020

To the family of one of the greatest peacemakers of our time, the world is better because Mr Rafer Johnson lived in it.

Posted by Cheryl Rice-Moore - Bear, DE   December 06, 2020

May he rest in peace and may his family cherish the memories made with him.

Posted by Rubbie L Major    December 05, 2020

My deepest condolences to the Johnson family, so saddened by this news. A sports talent for the ages, my heart goes out to the Johnson family, may God be with you all at such a very difficult time, truly sorry for your loss.

Posted by A friend   December 05, 2020

A true athlete who demonstrated the definition of sportsmanship in every sense. Heartfelt condolences to the Johnson family, may God be with all of you, so very sorry for your loss.

Posted by R B    December 05, 2020

I was a 17 year old man at basic training in OCT.59 in San Antonio, Texas, air force. I heard Rafer was on base and when to the Air Guards where he was in basic training.. The barracks guard called him out for me and we met. I was on track team in high school, raced time in 4:56, and enjoyed talking with him. Wished him well for 1960 and he followed up. In the late 60s in Burlington, Vt. he was invited to be a speaker at a fund raiser at Broadacres on Lake Champlain in Colchester,Vt and you know I went there. God Bless Rafer, we had a nice chat and I have a picture of us together. I had an adult bev. in my hand. And when I told him we had met in 1959, he remember the kid from Essex Jct. Vermont. God Bless the Johnson Family and wonderful to read of Rafer's great life. Will keep him and you all in my prayers, feeling very sure he was a great American. My best to the Johnson Family . dick terrien

Posted by Dick Terrien - Friend   December 05, 2020

May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.

Posted by john follman    December 04, 2020

Rafer Johnson's athletic accomplishments, as great as they were, pale in comparison to the Humanitarian Gifts of helping those in need, that he aspired to all his life. A better human being I have never met. RIP my friend.
Coach Harry Marra

Posted by Harry Marra - Reno, NV - friend   December 04, 2020


Godspeed Rafer, and thank you for sharing a part of your life with us.

Posted by Harry Simpson - Buckeye, AZ   December 04, 2020

While a FAX sales rep for Xerox I earned a trip to the 1984 Olympics. Rafer Johnson gave a fantastic motivational speech to our Xerox group - NOT a word about himself; all about setting goals, working hard. I had the great honor and great pleasure of meeting him - he was as humble, classy, and nice a guy I've ever met. I offer my sincere condolences to his family.

Posted by Tony Chibbaro    December 04, 2020

Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to family and friends.
May you all be comforted as you cherish the wonderful memories you’ve shared as well as the beautiful words of comfort from God. To comfort “ All who mourn “ .
Brings you a measure of solace and peace during this very difficult time.
Isaiah 61:1,2.

Posted by Will & Rossy    December 04, 2020

Dear Rafer Johson Family,
I was a teenager in a small mid-western town dreaming about being a great athlete when I matured. The story of Rafer and C.K Yang was my inspiration to work as hard as could to be as good as I could possibly be (per coach Wooden) I had that iconic poster in my workout area. Through out my life I have followed Rafer's accomplishiments as a guide for my life goals. Recently, we visited the the Jesse Owens museum in Alabama and perhaps I will have the same privelege if we have the opportunity to visit California again. So sorry for your loss. Bruce

Posted by Bruce Brandon    December 03, 2020

We all were so proud of Rafer Johnson for becoming the champion Decathlete in the Olympic Games of 1960. To the family, friends, and admirers, please accept my deepest condolences for your loss. May the God of tender mercies comfort you and may your memories remain close to your heart.

Posted by Mary Smith - Neighbor   December 03, 2020


Dear Johnson Family Rory and I would luv to express our condolences's on the loss of Rafer Johnson./he'll surely be missed very much./may he rest in peace.best faith/rory

Posted by faith/rory tobin/dockett - Newton Centre/brighton, MA - acquaintance   December 03, 2020

He was my inspiration in the throws as a quick and agile athlete. I have thought of him many times over the years.

Posted by Tom Herbert - Tallahassee, FL   December 03, 2020

May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times together as you celebrate a life well lived.

Posted by - MD   December 03, 2020

Sincere condolences to the family of Rafer Johnson.May the God of comfort and peace strengthen you during this difficult time.

Posted by JE Sowell - Charlotte, NC   December 03, 2020

Deepest condolences to the Johnson family. Rafer was an inspiration for so many and the reason I am a part of the Special Olympics movement today. Let us celebrate his life and continue his good work. Sue Perles, CEO Special Olympics Alaska

Posted by Sue Perles - Anchorage, AK - friend   December 03, 2020

God Bless you Mr Rafer Johnson, the dear Lord has another athlete for his team in Heaven, what a team it must be!
Prayers for the family and friends

Posted by Chuck G    December 03, 2020

It was a pleasure to know and learn about you for the past 60 years. I watched you at the Olympics and admired you throughout the assassination of Robert Kennedy and your life. You led an honorable life and it’s a shame people like you have to age. My condolences to your family.

Posted by Elaine G Mock - Pfafftown, NC - friend   December 03, 2020

Sincere condolences to the Johnson Family, May the God of Comfort take of you as he mends up and binds up your grieving hearts with His tender care and peace. May His arm of support strength you to cope with your loss during this very difficult time Psalm 68:19

Posted by BRY    December 03, 2020

The world and Los Angeles has lost a great Olympian and Human being. May he rest in peace and God bless him in heaven. My deepest sympathy to his family.

- Gary H Roller, Southern California, Dec 3, 2020

Posted by Gary Roller - Rancho Mission Viejo, CA - Acquaintance   December 03, 2020

Condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Johnson. So sorry to hear of your loss.

Posted by A friend   December 03, 2020

Our heart felt condolences go out to the Johnson family of the loss of a great athlete and human being. We will all miss him and what he did for this country. May he rest in heaven ❤

Posted by Keith Tillman - Chicago, IL - acquaintance   December 03, 2020

Rafer Johnson's persona and greatness as an athlete and gracious human being have been one of the torches that have guided my life.

Posted by A friend   December 03, 2020

My condolences.

Posted by A friend   December 03, 2020

Posted by Carol Sivadge - TX   December 03, 2020

This man was a great Athlete !! I watch him at the Olympics on TV. That
Guy could Run!
Condolences to his Family .
Sue Willard

Posted by A friend   December 03, 2020

Johnson was not just an incredible athlete but also an amazing human being. We pray that God continues to strengthen and comfort the family during this difficult time.

Posted by A friend   December 03, 2020

May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.

Posted by Frederick Simmons 3 - Stamford, CT   December 03, 2020

It’s a sad day. I met Rafer in his capacity of guest for Hershey Track and Field and the PA Parks and Recreation conferences. He was an amazing and generous man. He made time for people and was so humble. Condolences to his wife, son and daughter.

Posted by Diantha Grant - Portland, ME - friend   December 03, 2020

I am so sorry about the loss of Ross. What a legend and a legacy! My condolences are with the Johnson family. I pray that you will be surrounded by the love & support that you need. And may "the God who supplies endurance and comfort" (Roman's 15:5) be with you always.

Posted by Jenee    December 03, 2020

Rafer was a friend and most importantly he entrusted to me Jenny’s and then Josh’s first early childhood nursery school experience. Rafer you were a gentle soul and will always be remembered. I am sad today

Posted by Bonnie Lawrence(Bell) - Concord, CA - friend   December 02, 2020

I quote the closing line of the film "The Bridges at Toko Ri" : "Where do we get such men"

Posted by David Finston    December 02, 2020

I made my acquaintance with Rafer at the Special Olympics and AVP.
Rafer was a gentle giant of a man. He was proud to be the father of two amazing children and an amazing wife.
What he accomplished in sports was nothing compared to his accomplishments as a husband, father and grandfather.
God rest your soul and please watch over your family.
I was truly blessed to make your acquaintance. You are such an amazing human being, please watch over all of us from heaven. RIP... from a devoted fan..
Sandy Dannis Doer

Posted by Sandy - Acquaintance   December 02, 2020

My Condolences go out to the family Rest In Peace

Posted by Loretta Coleman - Jackson, MS - friend   December 02, 2020

I WAS A STUDENT AT UCLA for summer session 1958, while a fulltime student at Emory University in Atlanta. I took summer session courses and stayed at the ATO House at UCLA/ . I think that Rafer was student body President. He, to me, was a hero and although a small town Georgia boy, I was not one to be racially prejudiced, nor am I today at age 82.
By the way, I am also a Conservative Republican, believe it or not ! I caln proudly say that I was one of Rafer's "Southern classmates", albeit for only short time.-Dr.Bill Sharpton(O.D.)

Posted by DR BILL SHARPTON - LAKEMONT, GA - classmate   December 02, 2020

A true legend in American History from a small town in the Kern County. My elder brothers had the privilege to know him and go to high school with him. I personally would have like to have met him but felt I knew him through my brothers. My condolences to his family for their loss of a great man, athlete, and diplomat for our country.

Posted by Mary Lou Alderete Williams - Acquaintance   December 02, 2020

I had a chance to meet and speak to Rafer in Maui in 1989. He was and will always be a true
‘Class Act.’ My sincere condolences to the Johnson family.

Posted by RMW - CA   December 02, 2020

My Condolences To The Family;
I’m so sorry for your great loss. May all of the beautiful memories that you all shared with your loved one, bring you all some comfort when sadness sets in.

Posted by A friend   December 02, 2020

An exceptional and noble man. Rafer represented himself, his community, school, and state, and his nation with extraordinary distinction. Rafer Johnson was, and will always be, a true American hero.

Posted by A friend   December 02, 2020


Posted by Scott Chamberland - Saint Agatha, ME   December 02, 2020

In loving memory of a wonderful person and athlete who I have always wished I could have had the honor of meeting. We will love you and miss you always.

Posted by Herman Stayman    December 02, 2020

I was a UCLA teammate of Rafer. He was a magnificent man. I recall he came to my office years later and posed the question to my staff of "Do you have any idea how fast he was?" It was amusing, since I couldn't come close to Rafer's speed. One time, I had to take his place in the 4-man 880 relay at the Fresno Relays. Rafer pulled a muscle running over the hurdles. Humanity has lost a true monument. I can only hope that we keep in mind the spirit and character of Rafer in our daily lives. Rafer, as long as anyone who knew you is still breathing, you will always be remembered.

Posted by Sid Pelston - Classmate   December 02, 2020

I'll never forget him winning the gold in Rome. It meant so much to me seeing someone who looked like me representing our country. He was a true humanitarian and was a legend on and off the field. Sports has lost one of its greatest athletes.

Posted by Bob Young    December 02, 2020

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