Bob Seaman, former UCLA track star who ran a historic sub-four-minute mile, dies at 88

Bob Seaman portrait
Bob Seaman, the eighth American to run a mile in under four minutes and a standout on UCLA’s track and field team in the 1950s, died Monday.
(Courtesy of Desirée Dewey)

Bob Seaman, a former UCLA track star who became one of the first Americans to run a sub-four-minute mile, died Monday at his home in Wilmington of complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 88.

In 1956, Seaman set a UCLA record by running the mile in 4:01.4, the second-fastest mile in United States history at the time. In 1962, he was one of four runners to break the four-minute barrier during a historic race in London, finishing fourth with a time of 3:58:07. That made him the eighth American to run the mile in under four minutes.

A native of Fowler, Calif., Seaman set a national high school mile record of 4:21.0 in 1953 as a senior at Reedley High, where he was also a forward on the basketball team and a defensive end and halfback on the football team. Seaman’s breakthrough performance in the mile drew interest from UCLA, which persuaded him to break his verbal commitment to Occidental.


UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond’s late mother attended North Carolina Central, making Saturday’s Bruins football game against the Eagles special to him.

Sept. 14, 2023

He went on to help the Bruins win the conference mile relay in 1955 while later taking third in the mile at the NCAA meet to help his team finish second nationally. He was joined on the team by his little brother, John, the siblings crossing the finish line holding hands when they tied in the mile at the Stanford meet.

Before finishing his UCLA career as team captain in 1957, Seaman also set school records in the 880 and a few relays while helping the Bruins overtake longtime power USC as the dominant college track team in Los Angeles.

After his career ended following an Achilles injury, Seaman became a manager for the U.S. women’s track and field team. He was inducted into the UCLA and Fresno athletic halls of fame. He is survived by his wife, Simie.

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