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A Place in History

The USOC lost track of Jerome Biffle, but East High will always remember him.

Biffle's address in Park Hill has been the same for nearly forty years, however, and not a month goes by that someone doesn't use it to send a letter asking for his autograph. "They found him. They sent the letters right here," Beverly says. "Most of them come from Europe, especially from the Scandinavian countries. A lot of people around the world collect autographs. We assumed they had a central source that they went to.

"He's lived here all his life," she continues. "It's not like he's moved around a lot or moved across the country. He's been a name in Colorado for a long time. Why [the USOC], which portrays the Olympics as an historical event, would have been so casual about keeping records, especially of those who medaled, is just mind-boggling to me."

After the '52 games, Biffle finished his tour with the U.S. Army, which had drafted him shortly after he graduated from the University of Denver. The next year, he got married and re-enrolled at DU, where he earned a teaching certificate and a master's degree in guidance and counseling. He started out at Cole Elementary School before getting a job at his alma matter, East, just as it was beginning the desegregation process and looking for black teachers and counselors.

In the early '70s, Mayor Bill McNichols asked Biffle to serve on the board of directors for the 1976 Winter Olympics, which had been awarded to Denver. Biffle refused.

"I want very much to do whatever I can to make these games the best in history, but I cannot in conscience accept an appointment made by a committee that is not broadly representative of the total Denver community," Biffle wrote Mayor McNichols. "Anyone who is familiar with the basic principles underlying the modern Olympic games knows that they are viewed as a vehicle by which people from all races, religions, socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds can come together in an effort to forge the bonds of better human understanding and human respect on an international basis. I feel that these principles have been violated by the process used in presenting the initial bid for the winter games."

Biffle's letter continued: "At no time during the planning stages were any representatives from the minority community invited to participate. The group which made the formal request to authorities in Washington and to the International Olympic Committee in Europe were all white."

Ultimately, it didn't matter who served on that Olympics board: Colorado became the first and only venue to reject the Olympics when the state's voters banned any public subsidy for the 1976 games.

In 1992, Biffle retired from East; five years later, he joined in the city's Van Dyken parade. And next Saturday, he will again be recognized by Denver officials who have, very belatedly, invited him to be a part of the torch-bearer festivities. Despite failing health and some frustration over his omission from the USOC alumni roster, Biffle plans to be there.

"You'd think it would, but it didn't really make me angry," he says.

And that's a relief to Andrew Hudson, Mayor Webb's spokesman. A Manual graduate himself who had Beverly Biffle as a counselor, Hudson was embarrassed by the oversight. "I immediately called Mrs. Biffle and said it was in no way meant as disrespect," Hudson says.

"He was part of the 1997 celebration, and we want him on stage again with the mayor and the governor. He's an Olympic hero, and he's also a hero in terms of all the thousands of kids he mentored at East High."

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