Perhaps the most noteworthy is Ralph Metcalfe, who served in the House from Chicago's South Side in the 1970s. In the early 1930s, he was considered the fastest man on the planet. Metcalfe burst onto the track scene while at Marquette University, winning several 100-meter and 200-meter national collegiate titles. He won a silver and a bronze medal in those events during the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.
But it was at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where Mr. Metcalfe's status as an international hero to many -- and a bane to one -- was solidified. Germany's Adolf Hitler was using the games to promote his racist and fascist views, and he had boasted that German athletes would prove their self-professed superiority. Instead, black runners, including Metcalfe and Jesse Owens, dominated. The teammates won a gold medal in the 400-meter relay, and Metcalfe finished second in the 100-meter dash behind Mr. Owens.
After serving in the Chicago City Council, Metcalfe was elected to the House in 1970 as a Democrat. In 1971, he was one of several co-founders of the Congressional Black Caucus. He served in Congress until his death in 1978.
He was elected to the U.S.A. Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975.
"He will always be a great figure with African-Americans, and I think if more people knew him throughout the country they too would begin to see him as a major figure whose accomplishments cannot and should not be ignored," said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Missouri Democrat and caucus chairman.
"Great athlete, Olympian and a great mind. And he was a man of integrity and character."