Published: February 7, 2007
Willye B. White, who willed her way out of the Mississippi Delta cotton fields and became the first American track and field athlete to compete in five Olympics, died yesterday in Chicago. She was 67.White competed in every Olympics from 1956 through 1972, and only an injury kept her off the 1976 team. She won a silver medal in the long jump in 1956, when she was a 16-year-old high school sophomore, and another in the 4×100-meter relay in 1964.
She was America’s best female long jumper for almost two decades, with a career best of 21 feet 6 inches. She won nine consecutive United States outdoor championships, set seven American records and, by her count, competed in 150 nations. At 5 feet 4 inches and 130 pounds, she could perform weightlifting squats with more than 380 pounds.
Willye B. White also has a community center named in her honor in Chicago, IL.
Willye B. White Community Center