Rafer Lewis Johnson, born in Texas in 1935, competed in the decathlon at the 1960 Olympic Games. He won the gold medal after narrowly defeating Yang Chuan-Kwang of Taiwan.
He later said, “I never want to go though that again — never.”
The next year, the baby name Rafer appeared on the SSA’s baby name list for the first time. Eight baby boys were named Rafer in 1961:
- 1962: unlisted
- 1961: 8 baby boys named Rafer [debut]
- 1960: unlisted
The name didn’t become a mainstay on the list, but it has reappeared a few times since, including in 1968, the year Rafer Johnson and several other men caught and disarmed Sirhan Sirhan moments after he shot presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles.
Do you like the name Rafer?
- “Rafer Johnson takes decathlon.” Leader-Post 7 Sep. 1960: 25.
- Johnson, Rafer and Philip Goldberg. The Best that I Can Be. New York: Doubleday, 1998.