Adam Beattie Gunn

Adam Beattie Gunn

Adam Gunn, acclaimed in 1902 as America’s greatest athlete, was born in 1872 in the town of Golspie, in the Highlands of Scotland. He came to the United States at the age of 21, adopting Buffalo as his home town. Gunn became a U.S. citizen in 1899.

Buffalo’s best-known athlete of his generation, Gunn made friends by his high ideals of sportsmanship, as well as athletic ability. At a top weight of 158 pounds, he could run, jump, toss weights, box, swim and wrestle.

He twice won the “All Around” championship, the forerunner of today’s Decathlon. Gunn took first place in the Amateur Athletic Union’s U.S. National All Around 1901 championship, at the Pan-American Exposition, held in Buffalo, and again won the 1902 National championship held at Celtic Park, on Long Island. During the Pan-American Exposition competition, his competitors, many of them 40 pounds heavier than Gunn, were astonished when he put the shot over 42 feet.  

Gunn competed in the 1904 AAU National All Around Championship meetMeet, which has been recognized by some as an Olympic competition, held in St. Louis, Missouri. In the Men’s All Around [MRG1] , which consisted of the 100 yd. run, shot put, high jump, 880 yd. walk, hammer throw, pole vault, 120 yd. hurdles, 56 pound weight throw, long jump and 1-mile run, he was leading the competition after seven events. However, he ended up 129 points behind the Irishman, Tom Kiely, and in second place.

Gunn sandwiched his 1904 AAU performance around a second-place finish in 1903 and a third place performance in 1905.

At 30 years old, when most high jumpers have finished competing, Gunn would watch competitive jumpers, plan out a campaign for himself, and continue to participate. In 1905 in a Boston competition he cleared the crossbar at 5 ft. 6 in. 

Gunn was employed by the Buffalo General Electric Company and continued to compete in athletic events well into his forties. 

After his competing days, Gunn became one of the best-known officials in athletic events of all kinds in Western New York.

Gunn passed away on his way to Scotland to celebrate his mother’s 88th birthday, which occurred a day after his death. In one of the obits written about Gunn, one writer said “we have known few better men, no better sportsman.”