When Ted Cable first arrived at Harvard University, he had no plan to participate in athletics. By the time he graduated in 1913, the Indianapolis native had become, as described by Arthur Ashe in his book Hard Road To Glory, “black America’s first star in field events.”
The son of educators, Cable’s mother Mary, for decades, was an influential teacher and principal in the Indianapolis Public Schools system. Also the organizer and first president of Indiana’s first NAACP chapter, Mrs. Cable is the namesake of the Mary Cable Social Justice Center on the campus of IUPUI.
Son Ted — a standout student at Shortridge High School — earned his way to Harvard and as a freshman was recruited to tryout for the Crimson’s track and field team when Coach Pat Quinn put out a call for weight throwers. Before long Cable wasn’t just throwing the hammer, but competing in the 220-yard dash and the broad jump as well.
It didn’t take long for Cable to become a school record holder. At the spring handicap games in 1911 he tossed the 16-pound hammer 150-7 4/5, about a foot longer than the previous mark. The next year he dominated the Harvard-Yale meet, winning both the hammer and the broad jump (at nearly 23 feet). Later that year, at the IC4A Championships, Cable became the first African American in the meet’s history to win the hammer throw competition, a feet he’d repeat in 1913. Invited to the 1912 U.S. Olympic Trials as both a thrower and a jumper, he was inexplicably left off the team for Stockholm, even though his performances dictated that he’d have been a serious medal threat.
At the spring handicaps in his senior year, Cable pushed his school record to 165-2, which was among the best in the world for the year and not too far from the world record at the time.
But he was far from laser-focused on athletics. According to the Amsterdam News in New York, he was the first black student to be elected to the Harvard Symphony Orchestra and later played with the Indiana Theater Orchestra.
After graduation, Cable returned to Indiana where he would earn a degree from the Indiana University School of Dentistry and become a wing commander in the Indiana National Guard. He’d eventually own his own plane and served as a captain in the Indiana Civilian Air Patrol.
He was the first African-American Democrat elected to the Indianapolis City Council and served two terms in the Indiana General Assembly.
Cable and his wife Janice moved from Indianapolis to New York City in the late 1940s and he remained active in both society and sports until his 1963 death, at the age of 72, as a result of an auto accident.
This story was written by Brett Hoover in 2010 in conjunction with his organization’s (Schools Building Communities in Indianapolis) black history celebration.