On June 24, 1961, at the AAU Championships at Downing Stadium in New York City, Frank Budd (second from right in the photo) became the first man to run the 100-yard dash in 9.2 seconds, setting a new world record (he is pictured above setting the world record). He broke the mark set by Mel Patton in 1948 that had stood for 13 years, equaled over that time by 12 other athletes.
The honorific of “World’s Fastest Human” traditionally is bestowed upon the person who is the current world champion and/or world record holder in the 100-meter dash. In past years, that race was sometimes held over a distance of 100 yards before 100 meters eventually became the global standard. Jamaica’s Usain Bolt is currently the holder of that honorary title. But in 1961, the World’s Fastest Human was Frank Budd.
Francis Joseph “Frank” Budd (July 20, 1939 – April 29, 2014) was born in Long Branch, and played high school football at Asbury Park High School. He ran track at Villanova University, coached by legendary coach James ‘Jumbo’ Elliott, but never played college football. In 1995, Budd was one of the seven former Villanova athletes chosen to be a member of the first induction class of the Villanova Wall of Fame.
Budd competed in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, but did not medal, but the following year, he was considered the world’s best 100-yard/meter sprinter. In 1961, he equaled the world record for 100 yards at 9.3 seconds, then set a new world record at 9.2 seconds, and was a member of the team that set a world record in the 4 × 100-meter relay of 39.1 seconds.
Budd was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the seventh round of the 1962 National Football League Draft. He played 13 games for the Eagles as a wide receiver and 14 for the Washington Redskins in 1963. In two years, he had 10 pass receptions and 10 kickoff returns, before switching to the Canadian Football League, where he played for the Calgary Stampeders. Budd left a promising track career for pro football because in those days even the world’s greatest track stars were unable to earn a living from their sport.
Amazingly. Budd achieved his success despite a deformed right calf, the legacy of a childhood disease, possibly polio.
Later in life Budd worked at the New Jersey Department of Corrections as a corrections officer; he died on April 29, 2014, in Marlton, N.J. He was 74.
Litsky, Frank. (2014). Frank Budd, Once Known as World’s Fastest Human, Dies at 74. The New York Times, May 2, 2014, Section B, P. 9.
Sprinter Frank Budd dies. (2014). Associated Press, May 2, 2014. Available: https://www.espn.com/olympics/trackandfield/story/_/id/10872319/former-100-yard-dash-record-holder-frank-budd-dies
Image: Frank Budd of Villanova wins the 100-yard dash at the National AAU Track and Field championships in Ward’s Island, New York, June 24, 1961. (AP Photo) Used under paid license.