She was champion forBy Ben Henry
Special to the Star-Bulletin
THE "greatest leader in the history of Hawaii amateur sports" never spent a single second in athletic competition. Ellen Fullard-Leo, the first woman on the National Executive Committee of the Amateur Athletic Union and former member of the U.S. Olympic Executive Committee, was not only a pioneer in amateur athletics, but also in women's rights.
"I grew up in the Victorian age when it was considered vulgar for young ladies to compete in athletics," she once said in the Honolulu Advertiser. "So, of course, I didn't compete."
When she died at the age of 90 in 1974, Advertiser Sports Editor Hal Wood, who called her the greatest leader in amateur sports, recognized the stature of "the impact she left on Hawaii sports will last as long as the Islands survive the lapping waters of the Pacific."
The honors and accomplishments of this native from South Africa abound: She received an International Olympic Committee diploma and medal for her services and won awards from the national and Hawaii AAU organizations and the city of Honolulu; founded the first women's swim club, in Johannesburg, in 1908; is a former director of AAU in Hawaii; and was among the first inductees of the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame.
"She, more than any other one person in the islands, is responsible for the high place on which activities in that field have been kept here and for the widespread public support they receive here," the Advertiser said in 1954.
In addition to being an amateur athletics vanguard, she was a newspaper columnist (from 1951-1961) and even was named Honolulu's "Mother of the Year" in 1972.
She and husband Leslie Leo were also good investors. They spent $100,000 in 1948 on the Palmyra islands, southwest of Honolulu.
Today, it is estimated to be worth $30 million.