Glenn Morris is one of the biggest names in Colorado State University sports history. Born in the small town of Simla, Colorado, a tiny town southeast of Denver, Morris enrolled in the Colorado Agricultural College, an earlier name of CSU, in 1930. By the time he graduated in 1934, he was a track and football star and student body president.
Morris decided to compete for a berth in the 1936 Olympics. His event was the decathlon. The tryouts were held at Randall’s Island Stadium, New York City, July 11 & 12, 1936. Below is a photograph of Glenn Morris practicing the shot put a few days before the tryouts.
Morris not only made the team, he broke the world record score for the decathlon in the process.
The 1936 Olympics were held in Berlin, Germany, with Adolph Hitler in attendance for most of the events. Morris broke his own decathlon record in winning the gold medal for the event, which was presented to him by Eva Braun, Hitler’s longtime companion. Morris’ gold medal is shown here and is now housed at CSU.
Morris’ performance was a highlight of the 1936 Olympics, second only to Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in track and field events.
Morris also had an Olympic secret that didn’t come out for years. During the Olympics, he had an affair with Leni Riefenstahl, a German actress and the director of “Olympia,” a propaganda film of the games that she directed for Hitler. Riefenstahl disclosed the affair in her autobiography published in 1987 in Germany and in 1993 in the United States. She wrote, “We couldn’t control our feelings. I imagined that he was the man I could marry. I had lost my head completely. I forgot almost everything, even my work. Never before had I experienced such passion.”
But Morris returned to the United States, married his childhood girlfriend, and got a role in a 1938 Hollywood film. He became the fourth Olympic athlete to play the role of Tarzan. Morris’ movie was “Tarzan’s Revenge,” a movie that received poor reviews. It pretty much ended his fledgling movie career.
Morris made one more try for fame, when he played professional football for the Detroit Lions in 1940. Cut after eight games and now divorced from his wife, his life was in shambles. After serving in the Navy during WWII, he returned to the United States working in a series of menial jobs until his death 1974. He was 61 years old.
Recently, Morris has been recognized for his Olympic performance by a number of organizations, including CSU. In 2011 they re-named the old College Avenue gym and field house after their gold-medal athlete. It is now the Glenn Morris Field House .
Sunday’s post will be a series of photographs from Mark Miller’s family photo album. Miller was a Fort Collins photographer from 1914 through 1970. His family images will give us a glimpse of life in Fort Collins in the first half of the 20th century.
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