Meet the “Faces of Durham” Leroy Walker & Al Buehler

Faces of Durham features a selection of familiar and lesser-known faces from the Bull City’s past and present. The exhibit highlights a broad range of contributions including industry and commerce, medicine, and human relations while mapping Durham’s development from a railway stop to a booming tobacco town, and to today’s revitalized hub of arts and innovation. Check out our blog as we introduce some of the faces from the exhibit.

LeRoy T. Walker (1918-2012): Track coach and interim chancellor and chancellor at North Carolina Central University, Walker became the first African American Olympic head coach in 1976 and was appointed the first black president of the United States Olympic Committee in 1992. He was president of the US delegation to the 1996 Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta.

Al Buehler (b.1930): Track and cross country coach at Duke University for 45 years who organized integrated trainings with NCCU’s teams. Under his leadership, Duke’s cross country team won six ACC championship titles. He was an Olympic coach and manger throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and served as director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Games in 1973, the U.S.S.R. Meet in 1974 and the Lite Invitational Meet in 1981.

Durham played host to a historic Pan Africa-USA International Track Meet at Duke University on July 16-17, 1971; pitting some of America’s best track and field athletes against competitors from fourteen African nations. It was the largest track event in the Western Hemisphere that year and the first international track meet held in North Carolina and the Southeast.

An estimated 52,000 people packed Wallace Wade Stadium on two sweltering days that summer. Walker and Buehler partnered to coordinate the international event.

“I managed the logistics, while LeRoy brought the best athletes to compete,” said Buehler. “People from all over the country came to watch . . . They wanted to be a part of history.”

Thanks to Walker and Buehler, Durham became the international track-and-field focus of the nation, with Duke University also hosting the world’s top athletes in meets involving the United States-Soviet Union in 1974, the United States-Pan Africa-West Germany in 1975, and again the United States-Pan Africa in 1994.

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