#20 Gilbert Dodds


SportTrack & Field
HometownFalls City
Born1918
Died1977

Gilbert Dodds earned the nickname "The Flying Parson" because he was a seminary school graduate and eventually a full-time minister.

And he could fly.

Dodds lowered the world record in the indoor mile run twice in 1944 — first at Madison Square Garden, then one week later at Chicago Stadium. And that came less than one year after setting the American outdoor record in his signature event at a meet in Boston.

That American record was a big reason the Falls City High School graduate was named the 1943 winner of the Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete.

Dodds never lost a high school race. He was a three-time state champion in the mile (1935-37) and claimed the state record in the event.

World War II and injuries kept him from fulfilling his Olympic dream.

Because of the war, there were no Olympics in 1940 or '44. After retiring for three years, Dodds started strong in his bid for the '48 team, again lowering the world record in the indoor mile.

A crowd of 17,000 at Madison Square Garden witnessed that record. World-Herald Sports Editor Floyd Olds wrote: "'Never have we seen a large crowd so united in support of an individual athlete."

Shortly after that, Dodds injured an Achilles tendon and wasn't able to properly train for the U.S. Olympic Trials at Northwestern University’s Dyche Stadium.

Any hopes Dodds entertained of trying to get through the Trials and get to the Olympic Games in London were short-circuited by a case of the mumps a week before the Trials.

Quick facts about Dodds

Played for: Ashland (Ill.) College

Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: He likely had no competition in high school as he ran his best mile in 4 minutes, 28.8 seconds in 1937, a state-record time that stood for 11 years.

Best moment as an athlete: It came in 1948, when, as a 29-year-old he broke his own world record in the mile with a 4:05.3 at the Millrose Games inside New York's Madison Square Garden. He had run a 4:06.4 three years earlier.


Nebraska 100: 2005 edition

Dodds was No. 18 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »