Harlow Phelps Rothert

Multi-Sport Athlete, World Record Breaker

     Harlow Phelps Rothert was born in Carthage, Missouri on April 1, 1908, one of three sons of Florence and Waldo Rothert. Florence was the daughter of Col. W.H. Phelps (Hall of Carthage Heroes inductee, 2013) and his first wife, Lois. Florence and her husband Waldo were both deaf and dumb and soon moved to Los Angeles, CA where there were more opportunities for them.

  Little is known of Harlow’s youth, but one only need to search online to find many articles recounting his athletic achievements in college and beyond. Harlow attended Stanford University graduating in 1931 with a B.A. in Economics. His athletic prowess was summarized when he was named one of the five greatest athletes in university history in 1978.

Harlow is the only athlete in Stanford history to be named All-American in three sports: football, basketball, and track. He scored three touchdowns in the 1930 Big Game (Stanford beat Cal. 41-0), was twice captain of the basketball team, and nationally preeminent in the shot-put. He is the first three-time champion in the shot-put in NCAA history: 1928, 1929, & 1930. He was the first collegiate athlete to break 52 feet and set the NCAA and American record of 52’-1 3/4 in. He also broke the world shot-put record in 1930. In 1930 he was 5th in the discus at the NCAAs.

While at Stanford, he competed in shot-put at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics placing 7th. After college he competed for the Los Angeles Athletic Club and was New Zealand National Champion in shot put, discus, and javelin in 1931, and won the silver medal at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games. He is a three-time inductee in the Stanford Sports Hall of Fame.

Rothert earned a B.A. in Economics from Stanford in 1931, and an L.L.B. from Stanford Law School in 1937. He was a trial lawyer who specialized in civil litigation and dispute resolution. He founded a law firm in San Francisco and taught at Stanford Law School and Hastings College of Law. During World II he spent two years in the Marine Corps.

In 1996 he was invited to run a leg of the cross-country Olympic Torch Relay prior to the Atlanta Games. After a bout of cellulitis put him in the hospital for 9 weeks he was unable to walk. His competitive spirit showing through, Harlow practiced four times a day in front of his house in Menlo Park, using an aluminum walker with a special sheath to hold the torch. On May 3, 1996, Rothert proudly completed the 2 km. distance. One year later, he passed away at age 89 in Menlo Park, CA.


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