An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

My Coast Guard
Commentary | Sept. 8, 2023

The Long Blue Line: Peacock—Coast Guardsman and “World’s Fastest Human” 90 years ago

By Cmdr. William A. McKinstry , U.S. Coast Guard

Eulace Peacock was born in Dothan, Alabama, on Aug. 27, 1914. As with many African Americans of that era, his family moved north to New Jersey when Peacock was a child in search of better employment opportunities and a better quality of life. In June of 1932, it was as a student athlete in Union, New Jersey, that Peacock began to show the athletic prowess he would be known for during his life.  

Upon graduation from Union High School, Peacock entered Temple University and became an overnight track star. During his time at Temple, Peacock excelled in track and field, winning the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Pentathlon in 1933, 1934 and 1937. He never lost a track meet and several of his sprint and long jump records at Temple stood for more than 50 years. It was at Temple that he became known as the “World’s Fastest Human.”   

In July 1935, Peacock beat Jesse Owens during a race held in Lincoln, Nebraska. Considered quite the upset at that time, Peacock continued to beat Owens head-to-head multiple times leading up to the Olympics in Berlin in 1936. By Owens own account, Peacock was hitting his prime and that Owens would have a tough time beating him. Unfortunately, fate would step in and due to a hamstring injury, Peacock could not compete at the Olympics. Peacock later recalled that missing the 1936 Olympics was “the biggest hurt of my career.”   

After graduation from Temple, Peacock began working at the Internal Revenue Service, but he still maintained his competitive edge by participating in local track and field events. In 1940, the Olympics were cancelled due to the onset of World War II. Despite this, Peacock maintained his skill in track and field and continued to compete at a high level within the AAU.   

In August 1942, after the U.S. entered the war, Peacock enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard. He initially advanced to coxswain designation, but later became a Boatswain’s Mate First Class. Ultimately, he was designated Chief Specialist in athletics. Upon reporting to the Coast Guard training center located at Manhattan Beach, New York, and, despite his track and field prowess, he became an invaluable member of the Coast Guard’s Manhattan Beach football team. Composed of former collegiate and professional football players, the team performed well in the fall of 1942. In fact, the Coast Guard team did not lose a game and won an upset against heavily favored Villanova by 20-13 in one contest. The team was eligible to compete in a number of bowl games, including the Sun, Corn, and Victory bowls. However, the team was unable to play due to scheduling conflicts. No doubt that Peacock’s uncanny speed contributed to many of their victories.  

Peacock’s work was not just “fun and games” given he trained young men for combat service overseas. With former boxing champion and Coast Guard officer, Cmdr. Jack Dempsey, leading the way, Peacock served with an elite team of trainers that took in new recruits and made them into Coast Guardsmen. Over the course of three years at the Manhattan Beach unit, Peacock’s crew trained as many as 40,000 recruits in all aspects of physical fitness.  

In addition to his training duties, Peacock continued to compete in AAU track and field events. As a member of the Coast Guard, he won the pentathlon in 1943, 1944 and 1945. In fact, he won these competitions in his early thirties when his competitors were at least a decade younger. He attributed his success to the time he worked with Cmdr. Dempsey, stating that he was in the best shape of his life during his Coast Guard service. In addition to his speed, Peacock had great strength and agility, including the uncanny ability to do 1,000 fingertip pushups at one time. He was truly an incredible athlete.   

In September 1945, upon his discharge as a Chief Specialist of physical instruction at Manhattan Beach, Peacock returned to his work as a collections specialist in the Internal Revenue Service. He continued to be active within the track and field community, competing on occasion, and officiating at AAU, NCAA, and Olympic Trial Championships. In addition to his government service, he held many business ventures in his later years, including owning a liquor store and an ice cream distribution business. He also co-owned the All-Star Trading Company, a meat packing firm, with former rival Jesse Owens.  

Eulace Peacock passed away at his home in Yonkers, New York, on December 11, 1996, at the age of 82. Although, best known for his track and field exploits, he should also be remembered for his service in training thousands of Coast Guard recruits for combat. Undoubtedly, his training ensured the best conditioning for enlisted service members. Peacock and his service in the Coast Guard as a physical trainer and competitor should be heralded in the annals of our history, as he is most assuredly a member of the long blue line.