Arthur Wint World War ll Pilot, Physician, Jamaica's First Gold Olympic Medalist & the Secret He Hid 

Arthur Stanley Wint OD MBE was born on May 25, 1920, in the rural village of Plowden, located in the parish of Manchester, Jamaica.nArthur was the second of five children of Reverend John Wint, a Presbyterian Minister, and Hilda Wint (nee Smith), a school teacher.

Plowden, a quiet and modest community, was typical of rural Jamaican life in the early 20th century, characterized by agricultural livelihoods and close-knit families. At this time, Jamaica was still a British colony, with its people navigating the complexities of colonial rule and striving for greater autonomy and recognition.

Arthur was born into a family that valued hard work and education. From a young age, his athletic prowess was evident. His journey in sports began at Calabar High School in Kingston, one of Jamaica's prominent secondary schools known for its strong emphasis on academics and athletics. At Calabar, Arthur excelled in various sports, including track and field, long jump, and swimming. His exceptional talent quickly became apparent as he dominated in school competitions.

By the age of 13, Arthur had already made a name for himself by winning the Class 3 Championship in 1932 and 1933, showcasing his sprinting abilities. His natural athleticism and dedication led him to be recognized as Jamaica's Champion Boy Athlete in 1937, a significant accolade that highlighted his potential on a national stage.

In 1938, just shy of his 18th birthday, Arthur Wint achieved a remarkable feat by winning a gold medal in the 800 meters at the Central American and Caribbean Games held in Panama. His winning time of 1:56.3 not only earned him a gold medal but also marked him as a rising star in athletics. Additionally, he secured a bronze medal in the 400 meters hurdles at the same games, further establishing his versatility and talent in track and field events.

Research says his athletic career was interrupted by World War 2. But, one of Arthur’s daughter,  revealed in her book titled The Longer Run: A Daughter's Story of Arthur Wint. A secret he went to the tomb with. Arthur Wint's life took a dark and transformative turn in January 1941. Fresh out of Excelsior High School and working as an assistant at the government's titles office, Wint inadvertently pulled the trigger of what he believed to be an unloaded gun. The tragic mistake resulted in the death of a female office assistant. The firearm, which belonged to the office cashier, had been stored in the office vault.

Defended by Norman Manley, a brilliant legal mind who would later become Jamaica’s first prime minister, Wint pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years of probation. This devastating event was never discussed within the Wint family, and his daughter only learned of it after his passing in October 1992, at the age of 72.

Reflecting on her father's life, she remarked, "It was a very unfortunate incident, and I think it was the pivotal point that changed him from being a young and playful 21-year-old to a more sober, mature, and reflective person." She thought this incident undeniably shaped Wint's character, steering him towards a path of responsibility and introspection that would define his future endeavors and legacy.

In 1942, Arthur Wint's life took a dramatic turn when he joined the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, alongside his brothers Lloyd and Douglas. Traveling to Canada for training, Wint quickly made his mark by setting a Canadian 400-meter record. His prowess in athletics was matched by his skills as a pilot. By 1944, Wint had earned his ‘wings’ and was described as “a very keen pilot.” He saw active combat flying Spitfires during World War II, stationed in Britain, and by the time he left the Royal Air Force in 1947, he had risen to the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

Following the war, Wint transitioned to a new chapter in his life, earning a scholarship to study medicine at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London through a British further education and vocational training scheme for ex-servicemen. Despite the demanding nature of his medical studies, Wint continued to train and compete in athletics. His dedication paid off spectacularly at the 1948 London Olympics when he was 28, where he captained the Jamaican team in their first appearance at the Summer Games as an independent nation.

Wint competed in both the 400 meters and 800 meters events. In the 800 meters, he earned a silver medal, finishing behind American Mal Whitfield. This loss only fueled his determination for the 400 meters, where he faced fierce competition, including from his compatriot Herb McKenley. Known for his towering figure and quiet demeanor, Wint, affectionately called the "Gentle Giant," was a favorite among the home crowd in Britain.

strategic pacing saw him surge in the final stretch. With 20 meters to go, Wint overtook McKenley, winning the race by a comfortable margin and securing Jamaica's first Olympic gold medal with a time of 46.2 seconds. This historic victory not only marked a significant milestone for Jamaican athletics but also underscored Wint's exceptional talent and resilience.

A potential second gold was thwarted by misfortune in the 4x400 meters relay. During the third leg of the race, Wint pulled a muscle, forcing the Jamaican team to withdraw. This setback only postponed their ultimate triumph, as the team would go on to achieve success in the subsequent 1952 Helsinki Olympics, setting a world record in the 4x400 meters relay. However, it was Wint’s 1948 gold medal that laid the foundation for Jamaica's illustrious legacy in track and field.

Arthur Wint's career reached new heights at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where he fulfilled a promise made four years earlier. Alongside his teammates, Wint set a world record in the 4 × 400 meters relay, capturing the gold medal and solidifying Jamaica's place on the global athletics stage. He also earned another silver medal in the 800 meters, once again finishing behind Mal Whitfield.

Wint's journey, however, was far from limited to the track. In 1953, he ran his final race at Wembley Stadium, capping off an illustrious athletic career. That same year, he completed his medical studies, graduating from St Bartholomew's Hospital as a qualified doctor. His transition from athlete to physician was seamless, and in 1954, Queen Elizabeth II recognized his contributions by making him a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

In 1955, Wint returned to Jamaica, where he settled in Hanover Parish. There, he became the only resident doctor, serving the community with dedication and compassion. His medical career in Jamaica was distinguished by his commitment to improving healthcare access in a rural setting, making a significant impact on the lives of his patients.

Wint's service to his country extended beyond medicine. In 1973, he was awarded the Jamaican Order of Distinction for his contributions to charities and schools. The following year, he embarked on a diplomatic career as Jamaica's High Commissioner to Britain, a role he held from 1974 to 1978. During this period, he also served as ambassador to Sweden and Denmark, representing Jamaica with the same grace and dedication he had shown on the track.

After his diplomatic service, Wint returned to Jamaica in 1978 and continued his medical practice at Linstead Hospital as Senior Medical Officer and Surgeon until his retirement in 1985. His career, marked by excellence in both athletics and medicine, left an indelible mark on those he served and inspired.

Arthur Wint's legacy is celebrated through numerous accolades. He was inducted into the Black Athlete’s Hall of Fame in the United States in 1977, the Jamaica Sports Hall of Fame in 1989, and the Central American & Caribbean Athletic Confederation Hall of Fame in 2003. A road in Kingston, Jamaica, bears his name, a fitting tribute to a man who ran past a hospital on his way to the National Stadium, symbolizing his dual commitment to health and sport.

In 1949, Arthur Wint married his long-time sweetheart, Norma Marsh, whom he had met at Excelsior School. To be near her, he had even taken shorthand classes before leaving for the war. Their first daughter was born in 1951, and they welcomed two more daughters in 1956 and 1958. Norma, a Company Secretary and Soroptimist, and Arthur later became grandparents to eight grandchildren.

Family was a cornerstone of Arthur's life. He cherished the time spent with his loved ones, particularly during annual holidays. These vacations often included trips to the beach or the mountains, providing much-needed respite from his demanding schedule.

Arthur's playful nature, a trait from his mischievous childhood, carried into his family life. Whether engaging in games of hide and seek in the garden or having meaningful conversations about life's challenges, he was deeply involved in his children’s and grandchildren's lives, blending fun with wisdom.

Michael Manley, the former Jamaican Prime Minister and Wint's contemporary, eloquently summarized Wint's significance: "The single most important element to the influence of Arthur on my generation was the sense of Jamaica, the Caribbean, as a great centre of potential excellence. We were, comparatively speaking, a tiny part of the world with a very small population, but here we were producing people who were running world records, Olympic records, who were taking on the best at the highest level and winning."

Arthur Wint's story is one of resilience, excellence, and unwavering dedication. His contributions as an athlete, doctor, and diplomat continue to inspire future generations, reminding us of the extraordinary potential within each of us to make a lasting difference in the world.

Wint died on Heroes Day in Linstead, aged 72 on October 19, 1992. His funeral was attended by hundreds of people, including the Jamaican Prime Minister.In 2012, a Blue Heritage Plaque was unveiled at 22 Philbeach Gardens in Earls Court, London, where he lived while studying medicine.At the same event, his daughter launched her book about him, titled The Longer Run.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Destination Jamaica

Your one stop shop for everything Jamaican. From Merchandise, novelty items to all your travel needs, we have you covered.
Our Shop
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram