Willye White

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Willye White
Personal information
Born December 31, 1939 (1939-12-31)
Money, Mississippi, U.S.
Died February 6, 2007 (2007-02-07) (aged 67)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

Willye Brown White (December 31, 1939 – February 6, 2007)[1] was an American athlete who was the first American track and field athlete to compete in five Olympics, from 1956 to 1972. She was America's best female long jumper of the time and also competed in the 100 metres. White was a Tennessee State University Tigerbelle under Coach Ed Temple.

She competed for the United States in five Olympic Games: the 1956 Summer Olympics, the 1960 Summer Olympics, the 1964 Summer Olympics, the 1968 Summer Olympics and the 1972 Olympics.

She was a 16-year-old sophomore in high school when she won a silver medal in the long jump in the 1956 games in Melbourne, Australia. It marked the first time an American woman ever won a medal in that event. She won her second silver medal in 1964 as a member of the 400-meter relay team in Tokyo, Japan (along with Wyomia Tyus, Marilyn White and Edith McGuire).

In all, White was a member of more than 30 international track and field teams and won a dozen Amateur Athletic Union long jump titles in her career, according to USA Track & Field, which inducted her into its hall of fame in 1981 — one of her 11 sports hall of fame inductions. In 1999, Sports Illustrated for Women named her one of the 100 greatest women athletes in the 20th century.

In 1989, she was one of four candidates seeking three vice-presidential openings on the United States Olympic Committee, but was not elected.

Born in Money, Mississippi and raised by her grandparents, she picked cotton to help her family earn money, while at the same time competing in sports. A longtime Chicago-area resident, she credited her experience as an athlete with allowing her to see beyond the racism and hatred that surrounded her as a child.

White died of pancreatic cancer at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, according to Sarah Armantrout, a longtime friend who was with White when she died.

Willye White once said, "A dream without a plan is just a wish."


  1. ^ Litzky, Frank (February 7, 2007). "Willye B. White, the First 5-Time U.S. Track Olympian, Dies at 67". New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2012.