Art Cortez was born in Carthage in 1943, one of ten children of Lewis and Leta Cortez. He was an exceptional athlete at an early age, winning the Carthage City grade school championship in the pole vault in the 8th grade in 1957 competing for Eugene Field School. At Carthage High, he starred in football and basketball, but excelled in track and field.
In 1960, Art became the first Carthage track athlete to place in the Missouri State meet in 29 years, when he placed third in the broad jump and 4th in the pole vault, and was the first track athlete in Carthage history to place in two events at the State meet in the same year.
Art then attended Joplin Junior College where he started and lettered in football and basketball for two years, but again excelled at track and field. He often competed in nine events, and in 1963 broke the stadium record in the 100 yard dash at the Pitt State Relays.
Art continued his track and field career at the University of Kansas and in 1966 had outstanding success in the long jump, winning the Big Eight Conference Indoor Championship with a leap of 23’ 11.75” and placed second in the NCAA Indoor Nationals, earning All-American designation. At the national meet, Art broke the NCAA indoor record by nearly 2 feet, with a jump of 25’ 3 ½”, the best of his career. Art is quick to tell you he only held the record about 10 minutes, as the eventual winner of the competition broke his record to win the event. He was a member of the KU team that won the Men’s NCAA and USTFF Indoor National Championship in 1966.
Cortez received a B. S. in Education from KU in 1967, and a M. S. Ed. from Ohio University in 1974. He coached high school football and track and later track at Ohio University and Vincennes University where he was also instructor of Physical Education. While at Vincennes he coached an individual national champion and All-Americans in both cross country and track. He retired from coaching in 1982 and from teaching in 2000. Since 2000 he has been a full-time pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, presently serving in Evansville, IN.
Art and his wife Joyce have six children and 12 grandchildren.