Wellington 'Ducky' Ross, 82, sprinter set many records while at Morgan State

December 11, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Wellington "Ducky" Ross, a world-class runner who earned a place on the U.S. Olympic team while at what was then Morgan State College but whose mother did not allow him to compete because of his poor grades, died Dec. 3 of heart failure at his Mount Washington home.

Mr. Ross, 82, amassed many titles and awards while a sprinter at the college in the 1930s, running the 100- and 200-yard dashes, hurdles and on relay teams. He won a spot on the 1936 Olympic team that competed in Berlin.

"But his mother said they [his grades] weren't high enough," said his daughter, Karen R. Watson of Syracuse, N.Y. "He was devastated, but he continued to run in meets and compete throughout the country."

While at Morgan from 1935 to 1939, Mr. Ross set all the school's sprint records and most of those of the college's conference, the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association, which later became the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

Mr. Ross also ran against well-known runners -- including sprinter Jesse Owens, whom he once defeated in the 100-yard dash -- and competed frequently abroad.

"Yeah, he was cocky. He knew he was real good, and he was," Roy Cragway, a friend and former Morgan athlete who, like Mr. Ross, is in the school's Varsity M Club for athletic prowess. "He proved it when he ran."

Mr. Ross, who accepted a Morgan track scholarship over offers from nearly 30 other colleges that recruited him, was undefeated in college in the 100-yard dash, his specialty, and anchored the school's relay teams.

He was nicknamed "Ducky" while at Morgan because of his waddlelike walk, friends and relatives said. When he was 12, he stepped on a nail, suffered lockjaw and didn't seek immediate treatment, leaving him with a distinctive gait.

"He kind of walked like a duck from side to side, even when he was walking straight ahead," his daughter said. "So everyone called him Ducky. He liked being called that. He even called himself Ducky."

Born and raised in Westfield, N.J., Mr. Ross graduated from Morgan in 1939 and earned a master's and a doctorate from New York University. He took post-doctoral courses at Coppin State College and what was then Towson State University.

Mr. Ross was a city housing inspector from 1943 to 1960 and a guidance counselor and math and science teacher at the old Houston Junior High School from 1964 to 1967. He worked with the state's adult education program from 1967 to 1977 and coordinated the adult education programs at Coppin State and what was then Baltimore City Community College until the mid-1990s.

He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Club of Baltimore and the Baltimore Friends.

He was inducted into the Morgan State University Hall of Fame in 1972.

He was a longtime member at St. James Episcopal Church, where services were held yesterday.

In 1955, he married June Marilyn Gwynn, who died in 1980. He is also survived by four grandchildren.

Pub Date: 12/11/97

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