Wilma Rudolph: Clarksville's Hometown Hero

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First female three time olympic gold medalist 1960 Summer Games Rome, Italy

CLARKSVILLE, TENNESSEE’S

HOMETOWN HERO

WILMA

RUDOLPH

MEMORIALS & DEDICATIONS

• WILMA RUDOLPH EVENT CENTER

& LIFE SIZE BRONZE STATUE

LIBERTY PARK AND MARINA

1190 CUMBERLAND DR.

• WILMA RUDOLPH MUSEUM EXHIBIT

CUSTOMS HOUSE MUSEUM AND CULTURAL CENTER

200 SOUTH SECOND ST.

• WILMA RUDOLPH GRAVE SITE

FOSTON MEMORIAL GARDENS

PARADISE HILL RD.

For more information

clarksvillecvb.com

25 Jefferson St. • Clarksville, TN 37040

1-800-530-2487 • 931-647-2331 • 931-553-8467

or visit our Welcome Center

180 Holiday Dr. • Clarksville, TN 37040 • 931-553-8467

Printed by

9/12

FIRST FEMALE

THREE TIME OLYMPIC

GOLD MEDALIST

1960 SUMMER GAMES

ROME, ITALY


It is through adversity and struggle that some of the most

courageous individuals are born. Through determination,

perseverance and a will to succeed legends are created.

Wilma Rudolph became legend when she took home three

gold medals in the 1960 Olympic Games. The first American

woman to achieve such a feat, Rudolph proved to the world

that nothing could keep her

down.

Wilma Glodean Rudolph, the

20th of 22 children, was born

premature on June 23, 1940

near Clarksville, Tenn. Battling

illness for most of her child

hood; Rudolph suffered from

polio, pneumonia and scarlet

fever all before the age of six.

She was confined to a leg brace

which left her disabled. Doctors

told her family she would

never walk, and certainly never run, normally during her life.

Through extensive physical therapy and determination, she

overcame her disability to become one of the most notable

and celebrated Olympic runners of all time.

As Rudolph once said, “My doctors told me I would never

walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my

mother.” This attitude is what helped Rudolph overcome the

health issues that plagued her childhood and allowed her to

become involved in athletics as a teen. She played basketball

for the Burt High School team. Later, she was recruited to

run track for the school as well. While still in high school, she

qualified for the 1956 Olympic Games in Australia. There she

won a bronze medal, a foreshadowing of the great success

that was yet to come.

Once home in Tennessee, Rudolph graduated from high

school and enrolled in the historically black Tennessee State

University on a full scholarship and pursued her degree in

education. All the while, she continued to train competitively

in Track & Field as a TSU Tigerbelle, always aspiring for

her next shot at Olympic

stardom.

Wilma Graduating from T.S.U.

Wilma as a student at Burt High

School in Clarksville, TN

Rudolph’s chance came in

1960 when she went to the

Olympic Games in Rome.

While in Italy, Rudolph

won the 100 meter, 200

meter and sprint relay

events. Instantly this goldmedal

sprinter became a

sports superstar and an

internationally celebrated

athlete. She returned to the

states an American hero.

Several other honors were

bestowed upon her, including

the Associated Press Woman

Athlete of the Year.

With all of the fame and

glory, Rudolph returned to

a hometown that still held

some of the old wounds of

segregation and racism. At

her insistence, Rudolph’s

homecoming parade and

banquet were desegregated

events, the first in the city’s

history.

Rudolph retired from her Olympic career and found success

in teaching, coaching and public speaking. In the 1980’s she

was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Rudolph

succumbed to brain cancer in 1994, but not before she

created the Wilma Rudolph Foundation, which supports the

dreams of amateur athletes.

CLARKSVILLE CONTINUES

TO HONOR WILMA

In honor of one of America’s most outstanding Olympic

athletes and her legacy, Clarksville has paid homage to the

hometown hero in several ways. In 1993, US State Highway

79 in Clarksville, was renamed Wilma Rudolph Boulevard.

ESPN has since produced an hour documentary for the

Sports Century program

honoring the top athletes

of the century. The program

first aired in 2002. Then in

2003, the Tennessee Historic

Commission and Dr. Yvonne

Prather created a historic

marker which sits at the

intersection of Wilma

Rudolph Boulevard and

Old Trenton Road.

Today, an Event Center is

named in her honor at Liberty Park and

Marina in Clarksville. There, a bronze

statue of Wilma Rudolph sits outside the

building. It was hand-crafted in her likeness

by local sculptor Howard Brown. Her story

is also part of a permanent exhibit at the

Customs House Museum and Cultural

Center in Clarksville.

Wilma Rudolph crossing the finish

line at the 1960 Olympic Games

Wilma waves at the

crowd during the

1960 Olympic Games

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