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  • Writer's pictureEd Gaines

Olympic Legend Rafer Johnson Dead at 86

Olympian Rafer Johnson passed away yesterday at his home in Sherman Oaks, CA. He was 86.

Johnson was an athlete, actor, philanthropist and hero.

He was one of the brave men who tackled and subdued gunman Sirhan Sirhan seconds after Robert Kennedy was assassinated back in 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in L.A. In fact, Johnson ripped the gun away from Sirhan and hid it in his own pocket to prevent any more violence.

As an athlete, Rafer won a gold medal in the decathlon at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, four years after he won silver in the same event at the 1956 Olympic Games.

He was a 2-sport athlete at UCLA, running track and playing basketball.

The L.A. Rams selected him in the 28th round of the 1959 NFL Draft as a running back despite never playing a single down of college football.

Eventually, Johnson became an actor, appearing in a bunch of movies including "Wild in the Country" with Elvis Presley, "Pirates of Tortuga" and even the 1989 James Bond flick, "A License to Kill."

Rafer was also a key figure in launching the Special Olympics in 1968 and co-founded the California Special Olympics in 1969.

Johnson married his wife Betsy in 1971 and they had 2 children together.

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