|Born||October 31, 1937 (age 83)|
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Years of service||1955–1976|
|Unit||82nd Airborne Division|
|Battles/wars||Cold War, Vietnam War|
Melvin Pender Jr. (born October 31, 1937 in Atlanta, Georgia) is an American former athlete, an Olympic gold medalist in the 4x100 m relay at the 1968 Summer Olympics. He was a member of the Philadelphia Pioneer Track Club where he was coached by Alex Woodley.
Pender enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 17 and later went through Officer Candidate School (OCS); he was a decorated Vietnam War combat veteran and served for 21 years, retiring at the rank of captain in 1976. Early in his military service, Pender took up athletics, where his incredible quickness was noticed in camp football games. His progress was remarkable and he was selected to the 1964 Olympic Team, but was hampered by injury and finished seventh in the 100 meters at Tokyo.
Nearing age 31 at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Pender again made it to the 100 m final, where his explosive start and exceptional acceleration brought him to the lead midway through the race, but he faded slightly and finished sixth. In the relay, he was chosen to run the second leg and he performed that duty exceptionally, and the American team won the gold medal in a new world record of 38.24 seconds.
Pender set world records in the 50 yds at 5.0, 60 yds at 5.8, 70 yds at 6.8 and 100 meters at 9.9 seconds, and he is in several halls of fame. What people don't know is he didn't run track until the age of twenty five, while he was serving in Okinawa with the 82nd Airborne Division.
After the 1968 Olympics, Pender earned a Bronze Star in Vietnam and worked as the head track coach at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He later earned a bachelor's degree from Adelphi University.
- "Alex Woodley, 71, Coach Of Philadelphia Track Club". The New York Times. May 26, 2004.
- Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Mel Pender". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 2020-04-18.