Tag Archives: Wilma Rudolph

TSU remembers famed alum and most iconic female track and field star, Wilma Rudolph

Kelli Sharpe contributing writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University joined the world in remembering alumna Wilma Glodean Rudolph, the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympiad. She also galvanized the country and made the world take notice as the first African American female to accomplish this feat. 

 Rudolph would have been 79 on Sunday, June 23. But even in death, her legacy lives on. 

“We are so very blessed to have had the great Olympic Champion and former Tigerbelle Wilma Rudolph attend and graduate from Tennessee State University,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “Ms. Rudolph’s determination and accomplishments, on and off the track field, continue to inspire young people today. She will always be remembered as a global icon and a trailblazer in her sport as a record-setting gold medalist, and TSU is proud to be a part of Wilma’s amazing history as we celebrate her.” 

Wilma Rudolph (2nd from left top), TSU track and field coach Ed Temple (3rd from left), and Ralph Boston (5th from left), with Tigerbelle members. (TSU archives)

 As a child, Rudolph battled double pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio. Problems with her leg forced her to wear a leg brace. But she overcame her illnesses, and eventually, her disability through intense physical therapy, and her mother’s support. 

 “My doctors told me I would never walk again,” Rudolph said in an interview. “My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.”

 She did way more than walk. In 1958, Rudolph enrolled at then Tennessee A&I and joined the famed Tigerbelles, under legendary track and field coach Ed Temple. 

As a sophomore, Rudolph competed in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials at Abilene Christian University, in Texas, where she set a world record in the 200-meter dash. With that performance, she also qualified for the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy, and soon made history. 

Rudolph competed in three events on a cinder track in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico: the 100- and 200-meter sprints, as well as the 4 × 100-meter relay. She won a gold medal in each of the three events, and immediately rose to international fame. 

TSU alumnus Ralph Boston, who won a gold medal in the long jump competition at the 1960 Olympics as well, said he and Rudolph won their medals less than 15 minutes apart. Boston said he still marvels at her perseverance.

“Here’s a person who couldn’t walk, and then becomes at the time the greatest sprinter that ever lived,” Boston said. 

 He said Rudolph had many admirers, including boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who was very fond of her. Boston said they met Ali while in Rome, and he stayed in contact with them afterward, even making several stops at TSU to see them on his way to training camp in Miami. Boston fondly recalls the champ mainly wanted to see Rudolph. 

TSU Olympians Ralph Boston and Wilma Rudolph hang out with up and coming boxing legend Muhammad Ali during one of his visits to Tennessee State University. (TSU archives)

 “He had brashness, but he was always very cordial,” Boston said of Ali.

Former Tigerbelle Edith McGuire Duvall said she first met Rudolph right before she went to the Olympics in 1960. She said the accomplishment of Rudolph, and the other track and field TSU Tigers, was inspirational. 

 “To have met them that summer, and then they went to the Olympics and won gold medals, it made me want to be a part of that,” said Duvall, who went on to win a gold and two silver medals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. “It motivated me.”

 Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice, a former Tigerbelle who currently serves as director of track and field at TSU, said she first met Rudolph when she was a high school senior, and that the two formed a bond that lasted until Rudolph’s death. 

 “She was just a down-to-earth person,” recalled Cheeseborough-Guice. “She brought me in like one of her own children. She was a mother figure to me.”

Rudolph’s feats were seen as a true American story and was made into a television movie in 1977 starring Shirley Jo Finney as Wilma, an up and coming actor by the name of Denzel Washington as her love interest, and Cicely Tyson as her mother, Blanche Rudolph.

The Saint Bethlehem, Tennessee, native was also seen as an important figure in African American history. In 2016, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opened and featured Rudolph in its sports section, including a pair of her Olympic cleats and photographs. 

TSU also has a display of the track and field sports legend housed at the Brown-Daniel Library. The campus display is a main attraction during the summer months leading up to the Olympic Games. 

To learn more about TSU’s track and field program, visit http://www.tsutigers.com/wtrack/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU track and field icons remember Muhammad Ali

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A few years before Muhammad Ali became a heavyweight champion, legendary track and field coach Ed Temple said the young fighter told him he would one day hold the title.

The former Tennessee State University coach said in an interview shortly after Ali’s death on June 3 that he first met the brazen boxer at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Temple, who was the U.S. women’s track coach, said he had just finished practicing and was sitting on a bench in the Olympic Village when then-Cassius Clay sat down beside him.

13346700_1242673612410862_8127906244216764234_n
TSU Olympic legends Ralph Boston and Wilma Rudolph hang out with Muhammad Ali during one of his visits to Tennessee State University. (TSU archives)

Temple said the two talked for more than 30 minutes. During their discussion, he said Clay talked about his aspirations, boasting that he would one day be “the heavyweight champion of the world,” Temple recalled.

Toward the end of their conversation, Temple said someone ran by yelling that Floyd Patterson was in the village. Patterson was the heavyweight champion at the time. Temple said when he asked Clay if he was going to see Patterson, he said “no.”

“People are going to be running to see me one day,” Temple said Clay told him.

Clay, who would later change his name to Muhammad Ali, went on to win a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics as a light heavyweight, and eventually became heavyweight champion in 1964 when he beat Sonny Liston in a sixth-round technical knockout that stunned a Miami Beach crowd. In the ring, Ali proclaimed, “I am the greatest! I am the greatest! I’m the king of the world.”

A year later, Ali fought Floyd Patterson and knocked him out in the 12th round to hold onto his title.

Despite his cockiness, Olympic gold medalist and TSU alumnus Ralph Boston said Ali was a friendly person. Boston, who won a gold medal in the long jump competition at the 1960 Olympics, said he and Ali met in New York while they were waiting to board a plane for Rome.

“He had brashness, but he was always very cordial,” Boston said.

Temple and Boston said Ali was also very fond of TSU alumna Wilma Rudolph, who in 1960 became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympics.

They said after they met Ali in Rome he stayed in contact, particularly with Rudolph, and made several stops at TSU to see them on his way to training camp in Miami.

Temple also recalled a banquet where both Ali and Rudolph had been asked to speak. During his speech, he said Ali bragged about the gold medal he won. When he sat down next to Rudolph, Temple said she leaned over and whispered in his ear: “You won one, I won three.”

Temple said the two remained close friends up until her death.

Ali was 74 when he died at a hospital near Phoenix, Arizona. A family spokesman said he was being treated for respiratory complications. Ali had battled Parkinson’s disease for 32 years.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

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.

First Lady Pays Tribute to Wilma Rudolph During TSU Visit, Reads to more than 25 Anxious Children

First Lady Crissy Haslam reads to more than 25 young girls from Girls On the Run Nashville during her visit to Tennessee State University Feb. 19. Haslam was at the University as part of her Read20 Family Book Club initiative. (photo by Rick DelaHaya, TSU Media Relations)
First Lady Crissy Haslam reads to more than 25 young girls from Girls On the Run Nashville during her visit to Tennessee State University Feb. 19. Haslam was at the University as part of her Read20 Family Book Club initiative. (photo by Rick DelaHaya, TSU Media Relations)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – As part of Black History Month celebration, Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam used her Read20 Family Book Club to pay tribute to legendary Olympic champion and Tennessee State University great Wilma Rudolph during a program Wednesday at the Edward S. Temple Track on campus.

Since February not only serves as Black History Month, but also the backdrop for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Haslam said she selected “Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman,” for her book of the month to inspire children about Rudolph’s story about overcoming adversity.

The book, a dramatic and inspiring true story illustrated in bold watercolor and acrylic paintings, highlights the TSU alumna and Olympian, who overcame a distinct illness to win three gold medals.

“Wilma Rudolph made an incredible impact on society for African Americans, for women and for all people who have hurdles to clear,” Haslam said to members of the TSU track team, and more than 25 anxious and cheering members of Girls on the Run, a youth development program for girls in third through eighth grades.

“Her journey is particularly inspiring this month as we celebrate African-American history and enjoy the 2014 Winter Olympics,” she added

Joining Haslam at the program was former Olympic champion and head coach of the TSU track and field program, Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice, who thanked the first lady for selecting TSU for her book-of-the-month reading.

“We appreciate you coming on our campus to grace us with your presence, and for inspiring these students by highlighting the story of Wilma Rudolph, who was an inspiration to me as an athlete and so many others,” Cheeseborough-Guice said.

Also receiving special recognition at the program was Yolanda Kovan Rudolph, Wilma Rudolph’s eldest daughter, who is also a former TSU student.

Following the program, the students from Girls on the Run, under the direction of Coach Cheeseborough-Guice, performed drills with the TSU women’s track and field team.

“I am truly inspired by the first lady’s initiative,” said Charis Quarles, a sophomore Theater major from Nashville, who is manager of the TSU men and women’s track program. “It was really nice for her to be able to come and support these young children.”

As part of her effort to promote parent engagement in education, Haslam launched the Rdead20 Family Book Club nearly two years ago, giving Tennessee families a fun goal of reading together every day. Books of different reading levels and styles of writing are selected each month to help children foster love for reading and learning.

 

 

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

 

About Tennessee State University

With nearly 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.