Sport: Track & Field
Born: November 16, 1889
Henry Louis Scott was born November 16, 1889 in Paterson. Some sources list his year of birth as 1891, while he was often referred to as Louis J. Scott in newspaper accounts. What is known about Louis is that he was a short, wiry athlete with tremendous speed and stamina. In his late teens he began competing locally in long-distance races as a member of the South Paterson Athletic Club. In 1910, he was crowned the Junior Metropolitan champion in the 3-mile run.
By 1911, Louis was among the top finishers in most of the 5,000-meter races he entered, breaking 15:30 and working his way ever-closer to the hallowed 15-minute mark. He was also the national 10-mile run champion. Heading into the Stockholm Olympics, Louis was considered to be the only American distance runner who could challenge George Bonhag of the Irish-American Athletic Club.
In 1912, in a race at Celtic Park in Queens, Louis established a new American record with a time of 15:06.4 in the 5,000 meters. Two weeks later, during the 1912 Olympic Trials in Cambridge, Massachusetts he finished second to Tell Berna of Cornell in the 5,000 meters to make the US team. Louis had already qualified for the Olympic team by winning a ‘half-marathon” in New York on May 4th with a time of 1:08:28.
Louis set a blistering pace in the qualifier for the 5,000 meters, winning the race and qualifying for the final. Unfortunately, he did not win a medal the next day. Louis finished third in the 10,000 meters qualifier but again did not medal in the final. He also competed in the individual and team cross-country races, but did not win a medal. Understandably, he chose not to compete in the Olympic marathon.
However, Louis did not leave Stockholm with a little bling. He ran in the short-lived team distance event, which in 1912 was set at 3,000 meters. The U.S. won, and all 5 team members—including Louis—took home gold medals. On July 31st, Louis and three other Olympic athletes from Paterson—Gaston Strobino, Emil Muller and Harry Hellawell—were given a parade through the city’s streets and feted on the steps of City Hall.
Back in the U.S., Louis often competed in races where he gave lesser runners big head starts and then dramatically caught them on the last lap. In a two-mile race in Elizabeth that December, he was unable to catch a boy from Roselle High School by the name of L.E. Wenz, to whom he had granted a 60-yard advantage. The “loss” made headlines in The New York Times. Wenz went on to captain the cross-country team at Cornell.
In the years that followed, Louis married Mauddie Rortogo and settled into a quiet life as a normal citizen. His accomplishments and fame were soon forgotten, and he slipped into obscurity. There is a record of a Henry Louis Scott enlisting in the army during World War I, but no record of his place or date of death.