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Willye B. White

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.

Accession Number

A2002.112

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

7/2/2002

Last Name

White

Maker Category
Middle Name

B.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Broad Street High School

McLaurin Elementary School

Stone Street School

Tennessee State University

Chicago State University

Board of Education

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Willye

Birth City, State, Country

Money

HM ID

WHI03

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

A dream without a plan is just a wish.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

12/31/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Southern Food

Death Date

2/6/2007

Short Description

Long jumper Willye B. White (1939 - 2007 ) has competed in five Olympic games and is the founder of the Willye White Foundation, helping children to develop self-esteem and become productive citizens. At sixteen, she earned a silver medal in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, becoming the first American woman to ever medal in the long jump.

Employment

Cook County Hospital

Greenwood Medical Center

Chicago Department of Health

Chicago Park District

WBW Hang On Productions

Favorite Color

Bright Colors

Timing Pairs
0,0:1738,34:2054,39:2370,44:4108,84:6557,162:8566,174:8918,179:10414,215:11294,228:13670,254:14374,264:15078,274:16926,311:18422,339:19214,349:23700,423:24040,428:24635,438:24975,443:25400,449:26505,466:27185,475:27610,481:29480,516:29905,522:30245,527:31180,543:31945,553:38010,610:38310,616:38610,627:39735,661:40035,666:40335,671:41010,684:41760,699:42060,704:42585,715:46068,742:46626,752:48114,784:48858,799:49354,808:49602,813:50532,863:51090,873:53880,981:54128,986:56077,999:56767,1009:57457,1034:58009,1042:63792,1134:66096,1205:67248,1226:67608,1232:68688,1254:71856,1327:72288,1335:80314,1435:82062,1475:82822,1490:85026,1549:85786,1563:86242,1572:87838,1605:94576,1654:95620,1686:96084,1696:98404,1771:98810,1781:100376,1826:101826,1854:102116,1860:102406,1866:102696,1873:102986,1879:103392,1888:103914,1899:110040,1956:112840,2012:113470,2042:118212,2068:126171,2221:126738,2229:131550,2296:132918,2317:133602,2329:133906,2334:135426,2361:135730,2366:140815,2433:144102,2470:150015,2597:150582,2608:152480,2615$0,0:5916,134:8265,185:8787,193:9396,201:13870,227:16203,260:17955,293:20942,324:22760,348:23600,395:29805,462:32566,506:34100,551:34749,566:35575,576:38879,668:39115,673:39351,678:39882,692:45386,740:46848,753:53766,842:54246,848:55014,857:56262,884:57510,910:57990,916:58662,924:59220,931:59808,940:60396,949:61993,961:62359,968:62908,978:63152,983:63457,989:64006,1002:64494,1013:64860,1021:65409,1031:65653,1036:66507,1058:66873,1065:67300,1073:68520,1096:69069,1106:69313,1111:75940,1158:79566,1231:80750,1259:81342,1271:81860,1280:83636,1313:84524,1329:84968,1337:85264,1342:87262,1383:87632,1389:91480,1395:93082,1415:93794,1424:98867,1503:99312,1509:102071,1549:104296,1589:108086,1605:109222,1636:109648,1644:110003,1651:110287,1656:111210,1672:111778,1691:112062,1696:112630,1716:120070,1848:120870,1861:121270,1867:123650,1874
DAStories

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

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$2

DAStory

2$10

DATitle
Willye White recalls qualifying for the 1956 Olympic trials
Willye White denounces the obsession with winning Olympic gold medals
Transcript
Now, in the summers, I don't know when this started, but in the summers, I know you went to Tennessee State [University, Nashville, Tennessee].$$Okay, when I was sixteen, at that time there were two universities in America that gave work aid to girls in track and field and that was, there were two ebony-based universities. And that was Tennessee State and Tuskegee [University, Tuskegee, Alabama]. And so it was like a farm program. They would bring all of the Southern girls from all over the South. Tuskegee would take those, and then Tennessee State and you would run for the summer. And if you, you know, they would work with you until you graduated from high school. And then you would come into their program. And so I went to Tennessee State. I chose Tennessee State because it was farthest away from home [Greenwood, Mississippi]. So I went to Tennessee State, and that was in 1956, Wilma Rudolph [who won three gold medals in the 1960 Olympics], we were all in high school. And that was, that was the year of the Olympic Games. And when I got there, the only thing that I knew was I got there May 28th and I was missing all of the cotton. I didn't have to go to the cotton fields. That's what I was so happy about. So when I got there, they were telling us about the Olympic Games, which were gonna be held in November in Melbourne, Australia. And I said, "Wow, if I make the Olympic team, that means I don't have to go home, all the cotton will be gone when I go home now"--not even knowing what the Olympic Games was all about, had no idea, no clue. The only thing I knew was that if I made the Olympic team, then I wouldn't have to go to the cotton fields because I would not get home until after Thanksgiving. And all the cotton is gone. That was, that, that--those were my thoughts. And the trials were held in August, which meant that I would miss the cotton the entire summer. So they had said, "Oh, Willye, you can't make the Olympic team," and--but, see, they didn't know that I had a mission. And my mission was that I didn't want to go back to the cotton fields (laughs). And so I trained and I made the Olympic team. I made--in fact, I jumped Junior Day, I qualified for the Olympic team. And I had six jumps, and all my jumps surpassed the Olympic qualifying standards Junior Day; came back Senior Day, I did the same thing. So the coach was not taking me to the Olympic trials. But after I surpassed the Olympic trials standards, two days in a row, he took me to the Olympic trials, which were held in Washington, D.C. at that time.$$Who was the coach?$$Ed Temple.$Were you disappointed at not winning?$$No, well, when you get to the Olympic Games--let me share something with you about the Olympic Games. The hardest thing in the world to do is to make an Olympic team. That's the hardest thing to do. The second hardest thing to do is to get in the top twelve. And the third hardest thing to do is to get a medal. Now, when you make--the hardest thing, when you make the Olympic team--you've made the Olympic team. And then everything else is a bonus. And then, when you get there, you just said, "Oh, God, please, let me make into competition." So then, and you say, "Oh, God, please, just let me get a medal." You don't care what color it is. It's the lay person, it's corporate America who pushes gold, gold, gold, gold. And the sadness of it is to be, to compete against--you know, you got seven thousand people there. And in your competition, you may have eight hundred people from all over the world. And you're competing with these people. And just to be able to represent your country out of--what? Twenty million people or whatever, to represent your country. And then you--because you don't win, then, you know, it, it, it--you're nothing or you won a Silver Medal. I mean the Silver Medal don't count. You must win Gold, but the sadness of it, and this is why you have so many athletes that are destroying their lives using drugs because of the, the pressure that lay society put on our athletes to be the, to be winners. You know, what about doing your best? What about giving 100 percent? There's always someone that's better, but the question you ask yourself--and this is what I tell children that I work with--did you give your best? Did you give 100 percent? If they said, yes, then you are a winner. But no, the American way is to win at all costs and it is costing the lives of our young people.

Robert Beamon

Olympic gold medalist and record-breaking track and field star Bob Beamon was born on August 29, 1946, in Jamaica, New York. When he was eight months old, his mother, Naomi Brown Beamon, died of tuberculosis. On account of his stepfather's incarceration, Beamon’s maternal grandmother, Bessie, became his primary caregiver.

Beamon’s childhood was set against a background of violence, gangs and drugs. During a fight at school, Beamon struck a teacher and was expelled. He was sent to a juvenile detention center and then an alternative school for delinquents in New York. At this school, he learned discipline and began to look away from street culture. Beamon used sports as a means to focus his attention and energy toward positive goals. He regularly broke track records at the local and state levels. After graduating from high school, Beamon attended North Carolina A&T to be close to his ill grandmother. When she died, he transferred to the University of Texas-El Paso, a school with a prominent track and field team.

In 1968, Beamon qualified for the Olympics in Mexico City. Four months before, he had been suspended from the University of Texas-El Paso track team for refusing to compete against Brigham Young University, a Mormon college with racist policies. This left Beamon without a coach. However, Olympian Ralph Boston began to coach him unofficially. On October 18, 1968, Beamon made Olympic history when he broke the world record for the long jump. Beamon jumped 29 feet, 4 ½ inches, beating the previous record by nearly two feet, setting a record that stood for twenty-three years, and becoming the first man to jump more than 28 feet.

Beamon graduated from Adelphi University in 1972 with a degree in sociology. In 1999, Beamon and his wife, Milana Walter Beamon, co-wrote a book about his life, The Man Who Could Fly. He has been inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame and the Olympic Hall of Fame.

Accession Number

A2002.049

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/16/2002

Last Name

Beamon

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

BEA01

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Knight Foundation

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Europe, Africa, Asia

Favorite Quote

You have to keep going until you've got it right.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/29/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Long jumper Robert Beamon (1946 - ) is the Olympic gold medalist who set the world record for the long jump in the 1968 Olympics; he has been inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame and the Olympic Hall of Fame.

Employment

United States Olympic Team

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bob Beamon interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bob Beamon discusses his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bob Beamon discusses his mother, father, grandmother and stepfather

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bob Beamon discusses his earliest memories, including an overview of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bob Beamon discusses his early role models

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bob Beamon talks about his education and his expulsion from school

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bob Beamon details his troubled past and how sports became a constructive outlet for his energy

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bob Beamon discusses those who inspired and influenced him as a youth

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bob Beamon discusses his friendship with Brother Patterson and how music entered his life

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bob Beamon discusses his time at Jamaica High School and how he found his athletic talent

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bob Beamon talks about his popularity in school and about his public image

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bob Beamon talks about the famous olympians who visited his school

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bob Beamon discusses his Olympic achievements

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bob Beamon recalls his experiences at the University of Texas, El Paso

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bob Beamon talks fondly about his athletic coach Wayne Vandenberg

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bob Beamon recalls his experiences in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bob Beamon talks more about his Olympic experience and his belief in creative visualization

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Bob Beamon discusses his Olympic success

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

2$6

DATitle
Bob Beamon talks about the famous olympians who visited his school
Bob Beamon recalls his experiences in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico
Transcript
Now, talk about also, the day that the olympians came to school [Jamaica High School, Jamaica, New York], you know, the--Ralph Boston and Donna--.$$Yeah, during the summer, I believe it was my sixteenth--fifteenth or sixteenth year, and during summer program--they had this program called 'Operation Champ,' and they would--these celebrities would move around and talk about their experiences, and we had three. One was Donna de Varona, Ralph Boston, and Wilma Rudolph. And I wasn't really that impressed with Ralph Boston or Donna de Varona. I was more impressed, I was more impressed with Donna de Varona than Wilma Rudolph and Ralph Boston because I couldn't swim, and she was a swimming gold medalist, and I was like--and stayed on the track and getting track stuff. I ran in and got some information from Donna de Varona about swimming, and I still didn't learn how to swim, and I came back out, and they were talking about the Olympic experience, you know. They had these USA uniforms on. I said, "Me, I'm gonna get me one of those." This was probably around 1964, the summer of sixty--well, it was right after the Olympic games, probably September, getting close to school. And they were very exciting to me, and I said, "One of these days, I'm going to get one of those uniforms." And I did.$But it was there. That's from that--from University of [Texas at] El Paso, Texas that you competed. That was at the time that you only competed for the Olympics, right?$$Right. I--.$$Right, right. So how does that work? How--you were training there, but that doesn't mean that you automatically can make the Olympic set. Can you talk about that process that got you to, to Mexico?$$Well, there are some preliminary competitions that will qualify you to participate at the Olympic trials, and every one of the preliminary activities I won. Competitions, I made the distance, which was twenty-five, twenty-five [feet] six [inches], I believe. And from that point on, I was winning every major competition, and then I came back and won the Olympic trials. And prior to going to the Mexico games, about a month before, we had another trials that I won, also, and I jumped twenty-seven [feet] six [inches]. And from that point on, I felt very, very confident that I was going to be the winner. I had no doubt. I had believed that those that have doubt about their ability have a lot of problems in the games. And so I felt that I was well-prepared. I was willing to jump in rain, snow, sleet. Whatever it would take, I was going to win. And so that day, October 18, 1968, I stood up at the runway, and I said that, "I'm not going to be denied being a champion on this day," and on my first jump, I jumped twenty-nine feet two-and-a-half inches. And I think the moment that that happened and I found out that--you know, I said, you know, "Well, then what's the next thing that I'm going to do in life that's going to give me this kind of peak experience?" And I've been searching ever since.