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Title:Melvin Pender's interview for the Veterans History Project at Atlanta History Center
Duration:01:41:48
Viewed:16,399
Published:01-02-2021
Source:Youtube

We welcome your comments on this interview at VeteransHistoryProject@AtlantaHistoryCenter.com Catalog number: VIS 201.0691 In this interview, Mel Pender recalls his service in the United States Army during and after the Vietnam War as well as his athletic accomplishments, including winning the gold medal in the 4x100 meter relay in the 1968 Summer Olympics. He describes growing up in Lynwood Park, a suburb of Atlanta. His father served in the United States Navy during World War II and his mother was a domestic worker. He remembers the work ethic he developed at a very young age and describes his reasons for joining the Marine reserves at age 15 and the Army at age 17. He remembers seeing segregated troop trains during World War II and describes the segregated schools he attended in Atlanta. He comments on the close-knit community in which he lived and the police brutality he saw there. His first duties in the Army were in construction but after he re-enlisted he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. He describes his experiences in Vietnam, including being selected to compete for the Army in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and later the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. He describes being hired as the first minority coach at the United States Military Academy and recalls how he earned his college degree. He recalls his post-military activities and community service, including "walking" the Olympic torch at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

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