Track and Field. Olympian.
2023 Inductee, Georgia Women of Achievement
July 14, 2014
City, Town, Region
Alice Coachman deserves to be inducted into the Georgia Women of Achievement for a number of reasons, not just the iconic performance that won her the first Olympic Gold medal by a woman of color from any country. She is a member of nine Halls of Fame, including the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (1979), the National Track and Field Hall of Fame (1975), the National Women’s History Museum, the US Olympic and Paralympics Hall of Fame (2004). Her combination of a gold medal and 10 consecutive US Championships has never been duplicated.
And Alice did it all in the face of discrimination, being banished from public facilities for whites- only in Albany, and being denied access to compete in organized sports activities. Her father worried about her safety when she traveled outside of Georgia to compete. Even in 1948, fresh from her victory and being awarded the gold medal by the King of England, meeting President Harry Truman at the White House, and at the end of her victory parade from Atlanta to Albany, the audience in the hall was segregated and the white mayor refused to shake her hand.
She also accomplished her successes leading up to and during the Depression and World War II, when money was scarce and many people lived in poverty. Travel, shoes and equipment cost money. Family, friends, teachers all contributed money to help Alice, and she worked during school sewing, mopping the gym and rolling the tennis courts to help pay her expenses.
All the people in her life who had supported her and believed in her including, but not limited to her aunt, Carrie Spry, her elementary teacher, Cora Baily, Harry Lash, the boys coach at Madison High school, Coach Cleve Abbott at Tuskegee Institute saw Alice as a symbol of perseverance, dedication and victory—physical, moral and social victory.
“When the going gets tough and you feel like throwing your hands in the air, listen to that voice that tells you ‘Keep going. Hang in there.’...Guts and determination will pull you through.”
After she retired she finished her education at Albany State University, worked as a teacher and got married and raised two children, Evelyn and Richmond. Her portrait with her gold medal hangs in Alice Coachman Elementary School, opened in her honor in 1999.
Alice died in Albany, Georgia on July 14, 2014, of cardiac arrest after suffering through respiratory problems as a result of a stroke a few months prior. She was 90 years old.