Steve Keltner passed peacefully away on Monday, September 28, 2020, due to complications arising from Parkinson’s disease.
Steve was born in Shelby County on January 31, 1947, and attended Memphis University School where he excelled in track & field, competing in the high hurdles, high jump, long jump, and several other events. In 1965, his senior year, he long jumped 26’6.5”, a state record and still a school record.
Steve was recruited by Coach Chuck Rohe and attended The University of Tennessee at Knoxville on a full athletic scholarship where he continued to succeed both on the field and off. The Rohe track and field team dominated the SEC, winning the indoor and outdoor track title all four years that Steve was on the team (1966-1969).
Coach Rohe announced Steve’s death to all living Vols from the Rohe era as follows: “Sadly our friend and teammate left us this past week, but he will always be remembered by our fellowship. It was so nice to hear from many of his teammates about the good times they had with Steve. He'll always be remembered in many ways, but here's something about Steve's track career at Tennessee that should be of interest to all of you. Roger Neiswender provided the following on Steve's performances in the SEC Meets as follows:
Coach Rohe continues: “What great performances in the Conference Meets over his career! As Donnie Graham's tale about how "this white boy could jump" relates! [see below] However, he will always be remembered in Track Posterity Forever as a member of the World Record Setting Shuttle-Hurdle Relay Team at the PENN Relays! Steve along with Richmond Flowers, Roger Neiswender, and Pat Murphy set Collegiate, American & World Records' of 57.2 seconds!”
Steve’s Obituary on the website at Family Funeral Care in Memphis [www.FamilyFuneralMemphis.com] included the following information:
“Steve made lifelong friends among his brothers in the Sigma Chi fraternity and developed his business acumen – starting a successful student care package business at UT that continued to thrive, handed down to subsequent undergrads for years to come. After graduation, Steve met his future wife Jane Farrimond on a blind date, with whom he remained throughout most of his life as a partner and friend. He applied his business talents to real estate development through his fledgling company Elkington & Keltner. In addition to developing Beachwalk at the Sandestin resort community in Destin, Florida, Steve helped shape the residential landscape of Memphis over the course of a decade, boasting a legacy of developments such as Twelve Oaks Circle, Miller’s Pond, Racquet Club Place and South Bluffs. From there, Steve devoted his efforts to building his wife’s successful hand painted furniture studio and helped create a name for Jane and her elegant look in home furnishings. Steve continued to lend his expertise to colleagues – instrumental in such projects as Harbor Town and The Buckberry Lodge in the Great Smokey Mountains. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008, Steve began his long fight with a debilitating illness. Undeterred, Steve continued to pursue the next great opportunity and nurtured his love of fly-fishing and the outdoors. He could be found angling for trout throughout the rivers and tributaries of Tennessee and Arkansas or deep-sea fishing with his son off the Emerald Coast. Also a dedicated golfer, he maintained a competitive spirit as a true sportsman throughout his life.”
The following article about Steve was written by John Branston and appeared on August 20, 2009, in the Memphis Flyer https://www.memphisflyer.com/GetMemphisMoving/archives/2009/08/17/this-white-boy-could-jump]
This White Boy Could Jump
In 1982, the City of Memphis, under the highly unusual circumstances of an interim mayoral administration, signed a Beale Street deal within a deal with Elkington & Keltner.
John Elkington and Steve Keltner were bright, young thirty-somethings who had attended law school at Vanderbilt and Memphis, respectively. Their real estate partnership name had a nice polysyllabic ring to it, but it didn't last. The city and a bunch of lawyers are still fighting over Beale Street. Elkington became the dominant personality, but Keltner has a remarkable story as well.
Sometime between 1963 and 1965, Keltner realized he could fly. In his senior year of high school at MUS, he broad-jumped 23 feet, 6 inches, which was a local and state record. MUS is a wealthy private school with some of the best coaches and facilities in Memphis. It attracts more than its share of athletes who train harder, lift longer, and specialize in one sport from the time they are 8 or 9 years old. But 44 years later, Keltner still holds the school record in the long jump. His 1965 leap would have won the 2009 Tennessee State Division II championship by almost two feet.
Keltner, 62, still lives in Memphis and works in real estate. He is still fit but has Parkinson's disease and has not run in a race or jumped a hurdle in 40 years, when he ran track at the University of Tennessee and helped set a short-lived world record.
Plagued by doping scandals, track has fallen in the amateur and professional pantheon. It enjoyed a brief resurgence last weekend when Usain Bolt of Jamaica set a new world record of 9.58 seconds in the 100 meters. In the 1960s, however, track meets drew big crowds in Memphis at the fairgrounds and at high schools like Manassas, where Keltner's rival, Bill Hurd, now a Memphis eye doctor and jazz musician, was the fastest man in town. In the low hurdles in the 1965 state meet, Hurd took first and Keltner third. Hurd went to Notre Dame and set a world record in the 300-meter indoor dash. The two Memphis contemporaries both set world records in track within a year of each other.
At Tennessee, Keltner found himself in fast company. "World-class" beats "very good" as surely as a Corvette beats a Mustang.
"One second equals nine yards, and that's a hell of a lot of difference," says Keltner. "I could see my competitors' times. I knew my limits."
The physics of broad-jumping can be brutal. Working out in a tobacco barn, Keltner felt his Achilles tendon explode in his push-off leg. That was the end of his career as a long-jumper, two years before Bob Beamon staggered the sports world by leaping 29 feet 2 inches in Mexico City, a record that would stand 23 years.
But Keltner had his moments. In the Modesto Relays, he ran against O.J. Simpson. In the 1967 Penn Relays, he helped set a world record in the shuttle high-hurdle relay at Franklin Field in Philadelphia in front of 35,000 people. Maryland broke it later that year. Madcap event, rarely run race, short-lived record. Say what you will, it's a big world, and for a few months Keltner was on top of it.
"I didn't dwell on it after UT," he said last weekend. "After college I never ran more than a mile. I liked playing basketball at home more than going to track meets or practice. I think I trained to my limit in high school. More strength training in college would have helped me."
His 23-foot, 6-inch broad jump was the overall state record for 13 years. For its place and time, it was a Beamonesque leap and a Bolt-like bolt from out of the blue.
"I am the farthest thing from a racist that you can be," he says with a laugh, "but I may still have the state record for white boys."