Milt Campbell

Milton Gray Campbell was born on Dec. 9, 1933, in Plainfield.

When race riots broke out in Newark in 1967, he returned from Canada, where he had been living and working, to help quell the tension in New Jersey.

In 1968, he co-founded a community center and an alternative school there.

He later became a motivational speaker, with failure in business as his own motivation.

Campbell’s marriage of 25 years ended in divorce.

In addition to Ms. Rusch, he is survived by a daughter, Julie Campbell; two sons, Justin and Milton III; a granddaughter; a great-grandson; and a sister, Sandra Smith.

His son Milton Jr. died in 1987.

Campbell, who won the decathlon at the 1956 Summer Olympics and had also played football professionally, sometimes expressed frustration that he was less well known than the four other Americans who became Olympic decathlon champions from 1948 to 1976: Bob Mathias (twice), Rafer Johnson, Bill Toomey and Bruce Jenner.

There are various explanations for Campbell’s relative lack of glory after his victory at the 1956 Melbourne Games. One is that the Olympics were not televised as extensively as they would later be.

Another was that he spent a large part of his career playing football in Canada.

Yet another is that he alienated some people with his outspokenness about racial discrimination.

In 1957 he set world records in the indoor 60-yd high hurdles as well as the outdoor 120-yd high hurdles.

In addition to track and field, Campbell excelled in swimming, tennis, bowling, judo, wrestling, and football.

“It was in November, during the Australian summer, on the other side of the world, and there was hardly any media coverage at all,” recalls Elliott Denman, a U.S. Olympic walker who would become the longtime columnist for the Asbury Park Press. “So everything about those Games seemed like an afterthought, and people just didn’t relate to it.

For that reason, Milt never achieved the national stardom that he deserved.”

He was, at least, ahead of his time.

Campbell treated athletic competition like Jackie Robinson treated baseball.

It didn’t only about possess multiple tools; it was about crashing through the artifice to flaunt the art.

There was little pretense: Yes, he brought a full arsenal to the competition, and would dare you to match it; but he also had an attitude uncommon among his contemporaries, connecting the mythic power of a champion’s vision and an incendiary passion to beat who ever went against him.

Today, as he recovers from the effects of cancer and diabetes at age 78 at his home in Gainesville, Ga., Campbell says he “wasn’t nasty-arrogant — it’s just that I’d have told you I was going to win if you asked me.

His third act was almost preordained.

He returned home to help Newark recover from the 1967 riots, he founded the Chad School and a community center, and he talked thousands of kids in off the streets and into the classrooms, ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 2001, and became a highly valued motivational speaker.