Alexander, Frist Introduce Legislation To Honor Prominent Tennessean

Posted on July 25, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Bill Frist (R-TN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today introduced legislation urging that Congress award a gold medal to Clarksville, TN, native Wilma Rudolph (posthumously) for her contributions to humanity and women's athletics in the United States and the world. After overcoming childhood diseases including scarlet fever, double pneumonia and polio, Rudolph went on to win three Olympic gold medals as a track athlete in 1960 and is a recognized athlete in Tennessee and around the world. "Wilma Rudolph is an inspiration to all Tennesseans and most deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal," said Frist. "By overcoming adversity, Wilma showed the world that the values of hard work, determination and love of humanity can make a difference in life and to society as a whole. Her pioneering efforts to address racial equality, and encourage goodwill and justice were carried out with the same brazen attitude she showed on the track field. Wilma Rudolph has truly made the world a better place and is a legacy and role model for future generations to aspire." "Senator Frist and I are proud to lead the effort to honor this outstanding figure in Tennessee's rich history," said Alexander. "Wilma Rudolph refused to let obstacles stand in her way, and she became one of the world's top athletes. She also led the way in breaking boundaries of race and gender. Wilma Rudolph's life exemplifies the American dream." The legislation would authorize the President to award to the family of Wilma Rudolph a Congressional gold medal in recognition of her outstanding and enduring contributions to humanity and women's athletics in the United States and the world. Rudolph was the 20th of 22 children, growing up in Clarksville, TN. At the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy, she won three gold medals for track and field. She has been honored by a number of athletic and other organizations for her contributions to athletics and work to address racial equality. Notably, she was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1973; received the Humanitarian of the Year Award of the Special Olympics in 1985; was the first woman to ever receive the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Silver Anniversary Award in 1987; received the Jackie Robinson Image Award of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1989; and earned the National Sports Award in 1993, where she remains the only woman to receive the award. In addition for being recognized as an athlete, Rudolph was a graduate of Tennessee State University and a successful businessperson, coach and a teacher before her death on November 12, 1994.