James “Jim” Ray Hines (born September 10, 1946) is a retired American track and field athlete….who held the 100 m world record for 15 years….as he was the first sprinter to officially break the 10-second barrier in the 100 meters with fully automatic timing….running an electronically timed 9.95 to win the 1968 Olympics at altitude in Mexico City.
Born in Dumas, Arkansas, Hines was raised in Oakland, California and graduated from McClymonds High School in 1964. He was a baseball player in his younger years until he was spotted by track coach Jim Coleman as a running talent….and that is when Hines became a sprinter. At the 1968 US national championships in Sacramento, California….Hines became the first man to break the ten second barrier in the 100 meter race….setting 9.9 (manual timing)….with an electronic time of 10.03….as there were two other athletes….Ronnie Ray Smith behind him (electronic time 10.13) and Charles Greene on the other semi-final (electronic time 10.09) having the same official clocking. That evening of June 20, 1968 at Hughes Stadium has been dubbed by track and field historians as the “Night of Speed.”
A few months later at the 1968 Summer Olympics….being a black athlete….Hines found himself in a tense situation….with racial riots going on in his home country and a threat of a boycott by the black athletes of the US team….who were disturbed by the controversial idea of admitting apartheid South Africa to the Games….including the revelations linking the head of the International Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage, to a racist and anti-semitic country club. After considering all of that….Hines reached the 100 m final….winning it with the time 9.89 appearing at the screen….which was later corrected to 9.95. The 9.89 was taken from a light beam across the finish line….while the official photographic process used Polaroid film….taking a couple of minutes to process and read. There was some controversy over how his (slower appearing) electronic time of 9.95 should compare to the hand timed 9.9 “record” races of the day. Automatic times start instantly with the sound of the gun….while hand times include human reaction time to start the watch. It took until 1977 before fully automatic timing was required of world records. As the fastest electronic time to that point….Hines’ mark was recognized exclusively as a new world record.The race was also significant for being the third all-black podium in Olympic history. Hines helped break another world record….when he and his teammates sprinted to the 4×100 m relay gold at the same Games.