Samuel A. “Speedy” LaBeach II, a sprinter at what was then Morgan State College who went on to qualify for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, died of complications from old age Nov. 22 at his Washington, D.C., home. He was 98.
Born in Panama City and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, he was the son of Samuel A. LaBeach Sr., a Panama Canal worker and taxi business owner, and Julia Louise Johnston LaBeach, a homemaker.
He came from an athletic family; his brothers were runners, boxers, and football and cricket players.
Morgan State coach Eddie Hurt heard of his running prowess and invited him to visit the school. Mr. LaBeach was later offered a scholarship and became a standout sprinter.
“He was a helpful and tolerant man,” said his son, Samuel A. LaBeach III. “In order to help people, you have to be a good listener, too.”
Mr. LaBeach majored in biology and intended to become a dentist. He also had a minor in physical education.
He later earned a master’s degree at Howard University and a second at the Catholic University of America, where he received a degree in social work. He also worked toward his doctoral degree at the University of Maryland.
He met his future wife, Nellvina “Nell” Ming, on the Morgan State campus. She was the school’s infirmary nurse.
He was a 440-yard sprinter and helped establish Morgan as a sports powerhouse.
Mr. LaBeach ran the first leg of Morgan’s championship mile-relay team. In 1950, the relay team competed at the Penn Relays, the Coliseum Relay in Los Angeles, and the Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore relays.
He also ran at the Central American Games in Guatemala and the 1951 Bolivian Games.
Mr. LaBeach was considered one of Morgan’s top 440-yard dash runners. In 1951, World Track and Field News named him one of the six best quarter-milers in the world.
In 1952, he represented Panama in the Olympic Games in Helsinki. A hamstring injury prevented him from competing.
He was inducted into Morgan’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1974.
Mr. LaBeach retired in 1987 as deputy director of the DC Department of Parks and Recreation.
He played tennis after he stopped running and was a co-founder of the D.C. Marathon, the predecessor to the Marine Corps Marathon.
Mr. LaBeach was inducted into the DC Department of Recreation Hall of Fame in 1991.
He later sold automobiles and went on to become track coach at the University of the District of Columbia.
Afterward, Mr. LaBeach worked at the Department of the Interior and retired a second time.
He belonged to the DC Recreation and Park Society and the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration.
Mr. LaBeach also belonged to the Metropolitan Washington Soccer Referee Association and was a soccer referee for 15 years. He was a referee at the University of Maryland, College Park, and Howard and Catholic universities.
He was a past board member of the Police Boys Club and the Caribbean American Intercultural Organization.
He was a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
Mr. LaBeach belonged to Morgan’s Varsity “M” Club and was chairman of the One Hundred-Dollar Club Athletic Endowment Fund, which awarded scholarships to Morgan athletes.
He raised more than $400,000 for athletic scholarships.
In 2004, he was honored at Morgan’s first Legacy Meet, a track event he helped organize.
When bronze statues of coaches Edward P. Hurt and Earl C. Banks were unveiled at Morgan State University’s Legends Plaza, Mr. LaBeach spoke at the dedication ceremony.
He traveled widely with his wife and attended numerous Olympics, as well as the Penn Relays.
His wife of 71 years, Nellvina “Nell” Ming, who worked at what was then the Veterans Administration and was a Washington teacher, died Oct. 6.
Mr. LaBeach’s survivors include his son, Samuel A. LaBeach III of Washington, and two grandchildren.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Berean Baptist Church, at 924 Madison Street, N.W., where he was a member and held many church offices.