NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – When people use the phrase, “living legend,” it is a perfect fit for describing legendary Olympic track and field coach Ed Temple.
Temple was honored with a “befitting” tribute among family, friends and an entire community Aug. 27 chronicling his outstanding 40-plus-year career on-and-off the track when a 9-foot bronze statue was unveiled in his likeness at First Tennessee Park in Nashville, Tennessee.
During the ceremony, Temple shared some of his fondest memories as TSU’s head track coach, as well as his experiences with the Olympic team. He also acknowledged and thanked his family, the community, former student-athletes and administrators for their support.
“I’m just glad to be on top of the ground,” said Temple to a crowd of nearly 200, of his ability to see the statue in his honor.
Temple, 87, served as Tennessee State University’s women’s track coach from 1953 to 1994. He led 40 athletes to the Olympics, snagging a total of 23 medals, 13 of which were gold. His athletes also accumulated more than 30 national titles. Temple’s accomplishments are even more impressive coming in the midst of severe racism and discrimination that permeated the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.
The idea to erect the statue was the vision of Nashville businessman Bo Roberts. Roberts said the project had been in the works for well over a decade, and he was glad the unveiling could finally take place for one of his long-time heroes.
“The Coach Temple Statue Committee is grateful to those who have given. Each is now part of Nashville’s history and a part of Temple’s team,” Roberts said. “The Coach’s impact on Nashville will forever be immortalized by this statue. We hope locals and visitors will come to this statue to learn about and honor one of the city’s most important citizens.”
According to an Aug. 29 article in The Tennessean newspaper, the effort to erect the statue kicked into high gear in October 2012 after Roberts met with Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who hosted the first fundraising event to raise the $80,000 needed to make and anchor the statue. Since 2011, Roberts has diligently organized fundraisers, called on donors and worked with TSU to make the project a reality.
Among the supporters at Friday’s unveiling ceremony was TSU President Glenda Glover, Mayor Dean, Congressman Jim Cooper, and former TSU Tigerbelles Wyomia Tyus and Edith McQuire Duvall, who made brief remarks at the event.
“Coach Temple’s accomplishments in track and field at TSU are unparalleled nationally and internationally,” President Glover said before introducing Coach Temple. “He groomed the Tigerbelles for greatness on-and-off the track field. While he receives his accolades for accomplishments on the track field, as an educator and university president, I’m most proud of his coaching away from competition. He and his wife, the late Charlie B. Temple, prepared the Tigerbelles to be winners in life after track. He is truly to be applauded for that.”
“This is a great day for Nashville,” Dean said. “From the racial segregation of the Eisenhower days to the Clinton days, Coach Temple has amassed a career that is difficult for anyone to match.
“He did things the right way. Out of the 40 athletes he got to the Olympics – 100 percent of them received college degrees. Coach Temple is a man of great character, gentle humor and steely determination. He is a great teacher which is one of the best things you can be.”
Tyus, the first person to win consecutive Olympic gold medals in the 100-meter dash, was recruited by Temple in 1963 receiving a scholarship and a spot on his famed Tigerbelles team. She said Coach Temple always pushed them to excellence.
“I never thought I would see this in my lifetime,” said Tyus, considered the fastest woman in the world in 1964 and 1968. “Coach always says he wants his roses while he’s still alive, and I am so happy to see this today.”
Temple was head coach of the US Olympics Women’s Track and Field teams in 1960 and 1964 and assistant coach in 1980. He has been inducted into nine different Halls of Fame, including the Olympic Hall of Fame in 2012, in which he is one of only four coaches to be inducted. He is a past member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the International Women’s Track and Field Committee and the Nashville Sports Council. He also served as chairman of Nashville’s 200-plus member Amateur Sports Committee.
In addition to being part of the Tennessee State University Hall of Fame, Temple’s legacy of excellence continues in such recognitions as the Edward S. Temple Track at Tennessee State University; Ed Temple Boulevard in Nashville, adjacent to the TSU campus; the Edward Temple Award established by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Track and Field Coaches Association; and the Edward S. Temple Seminars: Society and Sports, held annually at Tennessee State University.
Temple’s autobiography, Only the Pure in Heart Survive, was published in 1980. The book, along with additional papers and memorabilia from his lifetime of achievement, are part of the Special Collections department in TSU’s Brown-Daniel Library.
“Even the Bible says a prophet is seldom honored in his hometown,” said Congressman Cooper at the ceremony. “But here we are honoring perhaps one of the greatest coaches in all of history.”
Brian Hanlon, the commissioned sculptor of the project said, “This is an historical marker that celebrates the principles of real discipline. It is a huge feather in my hat, not just artistically but for what this stands for in our community.”
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With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.