The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Willye B. White

Share on Social Media

Information about Willye B. White

Profile image of Willye B. White

Profession

Category:
SportsMakers
Occupation(s):
Long Jumper

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Bright Colors
Favorite Food:
Southern Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring, Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Home
Favorite Quote:
A dream without a plan is just a wish.

Birthplace

Born:
12/31/1939
Birth Location:
Money, Mississippi

Profession

Category:
SportsMakers
Occupation(s):
Long Jumper

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Bright Colors
Favorite Food:
Southern Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring, Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Home
Favorite Quote:
A dream without a plan is just a wish.

Birthplace

Born:
12/31/1939
Birth Location:
Money
See how Willye B. White is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Willye B. White was born to run. Born on December 31, 1939, in Money, Mississippi, and raised by her grandparents, White discovered her talent for running and jumping at age ten. At sixteen, she competed in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games and became the first American woman to ever medal in the long jump, earning a silver medal. She participated in the next four Olympiads as well and is the first American to compete on five Olympic track and field teams. She won another silver medal in the 1964 Tokyo Games in the 4-by-100-meter relay. White competed in more than 150 nations as a member of thirty-nine different international track and field teams.

In 1959, White graduated from Broad Street High School in Greenwood, Mississippi, the same year she set an American record for the long jump, which stood for sixteen years. She moved to Chicago in 1960 and began working as a nurse in 1963, first at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital, then at the Greenwood Medical Center. In 1965, White became a public health administrator at the Chicago Health Department. She graduated with a B.A. degree in public health administration from Chicago State University in 1976. White remained active in the field of sports. She represented track and field on the U.S. Olympic Committee, coached athletes in the National Sports Festival in 1979 and 1981, coached and managed at the 1981 World Cup Track and Field Championship Games in Brussels and Rome, and served as head coach for the 1994 Olympic Sports Festival.

In 1990, White founded WBW Hang on Productions, a sports and fitness consultancy. A year later, she founded the Willye White Foundation, helping children to develop self-esteem and become productive citizens through such initiatives as the Robert Taylor Girls Athletic Program. This program taught sports and teamwork to children living in the nation’s largest housing project (which has been demolished), a summer day camp and healthcare in the form of immunizations and dental and medical checkups.

White was the first American to win the world’s highest sportsmanship award, the UNESCO Pierre de Coubetin International Fair Play Trophy. She is a member of eleven sports halls of fame, including those of the National Association of Sport and Physical Education, Black Sports, Women Sports Foundation, and National Track and Field. She was chosen by Sports Illustrated for Women in 1999 as one of the 100 greatest athletes of the century and by Ebony in 2002 as one of the ten greatest black female athletes.

White passed away from pancreatic cancer on Tuesday, February 6, 2007.

See how Willye B. White is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Willye White interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Willye White lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Willye White details her family history
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Willye White describes her grandfather
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Willye White recalls her childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Willye White discusses color caste within the black community
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Willye White illustrates Southern manners
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Willye White describes herself as a little girl
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Willye White explains why she was raised by her grandparents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Willye White recounts her school years and early athletics
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Willye White reflects on her self-image
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Willye White remembers how she got into athletics
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Willye White recalls qualifying for the 1956 Olympic trials
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Willye White describes Ed Temple
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Willye White recounts traveling to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. for the Olympic trials
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Willye White remembers traveling to Los Angeles and Australia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Willye White reflects on Australia and her realization that segregation was unnatural
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Willye White details her training regimen
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Willye White discusses self-motivation in professional sports
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Willye White shares her experience at the 1956 Olympics
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Willye White denounces the obsession with winning Olympic gold medals
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Willye White describes winning an Olympic silver medal
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Willye White discusses hermaphrodites and performance-enhancing drugs in sports
  • Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Willye White compares competing to escape Communism to competing to escape segregation
  • Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Willye White recalls how she learned to long-jump with no coach
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Willye White illustrates coaching different types of jumps
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Willye White recalls her first newspaper clipping
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Willye White reflects on using her talent to escape segregation
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Willye White recounts her trip to communist Russia to compete
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Willye White remembers her wild teenage years
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Willye White explains why she was kicked off the Tennessee State University track team
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Willye White shares her experiences at the 1960 Olympics
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Willye White describes confronting discrimination in nursing programs
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Willye White details the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Willye White recalls traveling the world to compete
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Willye White discusses her role in the changes made by the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Willye White shares her disappointments at the 1968 Olympics
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Willye White criticizes Harry Edwards and his role in the 1968 Olympics
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Willye White denounces Avery Brundage
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Willye White recounts the athletes' demonstrations at the 1968 Olympics
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Willye White remembers the kidnapping and massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Willye White recalls her last Olympic Games
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Willye White discusses the rewards of her accomplishment for herself and her family
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Willye White details her work with the Willye White Foundation
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Willye White ponders her legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Willye White describes her visits to Mississippi
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Willye White discusses feeling rootless
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Photo - Portrait of Willye White, December 31, 1990
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Photo - Willye White in a long jump event in the National Championships, ca. 1967
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Photo - Willye White in a long jump event at the Olympic Trials in Frederick, Maryland, 1972
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Photo - Willye White in her track uniform at the XVI Olympiad in Melbourne, Australia, 1956
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Willye White, Chicago, Illinois, 1974
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - Newspaper article showing billboard dedicated to Willye White, Greenwood, Mississippi, July 8, 2001
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Willye White in a long jump event in Warsaw, Poland, 1965
  • Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Willye White making a long jump landing at the National Championships in Perth, Australia, 1969
  • Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Willye White with her U.S. Olympic teammates at Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee, 1956
  • Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Willye White winning the 60 yard dash at the Indoor National Championships at Madison Square Garden, New York, February 24, 1963
  • Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Willye White winning her event at the Indoor National Championships, Los Angeles, California, 1965
  • Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Photo - Willye White at the Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1961
  • Tape: 5 Story: 16 - Photo - Willye White in a broad jump event in Warsaw, Poland, August, 1965
  • Tape: 5 Story: 17 - Photo - Willye White in a relay event at the Martin Luther King Games at Villanova University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1969
  • Tape: 5 Story: 18 - Photo - Willye White with the Robert Taylor Girls' Athletic Program on a brochure for the American Red Cross, Chicago, Illinois, 1995
  • Tape: 5 Story: 19 - Photo - Willye White in a cotton field in Greenwood, Mississippi for a 'Sports Illustrated' article, December 1975