Jim Beatty’s “Good Luck” Telegram
50 years later a 1956 twenty-six foot love letter with more than 1,200 signatures wishing Jim Beatty luck resurfaces; Beatty first man to run a sub-4 minute Mile indoors
By Wendy Brenner, Oxford American
It takes three people to hold it up, like an anaconda, draped between them and unfurled to its full length of twenty-six feet. The woman and the two men look triumphant, like they’re the ones who caught it. THEY STRING ALONG WITH JIMMY, says the photo’s caption, referring to Jim Beatty, a twenty-one-year-old University of North Carolina junior, who had traveled to Los Angeles that month to compete in the 1956 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Ttrials. The stylish, sharp-jawed woman in the foreground—she could be a Kennedy—is Jimmy’s sister Mary. The others are Charlotte businessmen who helped sponsor the California trip, and what they are holding is a Western Union telegram signed by more than 1,200 people—hence the document’s magnificent, ridiculous length.
ALL YOUR FRIENDS IN CHARLOTTE ARE PULLING FOR YOU TO MAKE THE OLYMPIC TEAM, reads the message to Jimmy, SO SHOW THOSE DISTANCE MEN JUST HOW A REAL TAR HEEL CAN RUN. The photo appeared in the Charlotte News on June 29, 1956, and though the newsprint is now grainy and faded brown, the bright white of that festively looping list of names still comes through, matched by Mary’s crisp shirt and earring and flashing smile. The men’s shoes are shiny. The sense of bursting pride and excitement is palpable.