FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
C. Rudolph Knight
Undeveloped talent can go unrecognized until late in life when surprising accomplishments and successes are realized.
One such person being highlighted for Black History Month is Milton Alexander “Nick” Newton, Jr., born in Tarboro to Milton Alexander Newton and Maude Bullock Newton on Nov. 6, 1933.
After graduating from W. A. Pattillo High School, Nick joined the U.S. Army and served with honor during the Korean conflict. After being discharged, he settled in Los Angeles, where he worked as a tool and die operator for Waste King. He and his wife, Sheila, have two children, Daren and Pam.
Pam, a track and field athlete, was a sprinter and hurdler. Nick observed the starting blocks she was using and designed improved cast-aluminum blocks for her which he received a patent in 1978. Newton Starting Blocks are now widely around the world, including the Olympics.
In 2004, Nick was inducted into the U.S. Track and Field Masters Hall of Fame for his invention.
Around age 40, at Pam’s urging, Nick began long-distance running and discovered he had both stamina and speed. (He claims that his track speed is the result of his early experience, running at night past three cemeteries on West Wilson St. en route to his home on Barlow Road.)
As a sprinter, Nick set several age-group national and world Masters (i.e., over 40) records for the 200 and 400-meter sprints as well as the high jump. Nike sponsored him on tours and competitions as a member of the U.S. team in many countries, including Finland, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Italy, and China.
In 1976, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiated arrangements for an integrated U.S. team, which included Nick, to participate in South Africa, although the country was still practicing apartheid.
Nick’s great grandfather was George C. Caine who came from Petersburg, Va., and settled in Tarboro after the Civil War. He worked as a wheelwright with the Hussey Carriage Enterprise on Granville St. and eventually became Tarboro’s first African-American undertaker. This set the standard of entrepreneurship for future generations of the family.
Nick’s grandmother, Lucy Dale Caine married William M. Newton, a merchant who operated a successful butcher shop in the 300 block of Main Street for a period of time. This also added to Nick’s entrepreneurial legacy. From the maternal Bullock side of his family, he received a keen sense of self and independence.
Pam, Nick’s daughter who aspired to be a Junior Olympian, married Loyce Crisp, a professional boxer who went by the name “Sugar” Crisp on the boxing circuit.
Nick’s grandson Covelli “Coco” Crisp, son of Nick’s daughter, Pam, is a professional baseball player who plays with the Oakland Athletics. Coco’s sister, Sheileah, was a professional figure skater until she suffered a broken ankle.
On May 22, 2010, Nick was honored at a Recognition Celebration in Pomona, Calif.
(C. Rudolph Knight is a Tarboro native, a retired community college educator, and a research historian.)