Willye White
White running at the 1964 Summer Olympics
Personal information
BornDecember 31, 1939 (1939-12-31)
Money, Mississippi, U.S.
DiedFebruary 6, 2007 (2007-02-07) (aged 67)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Height1.63 m (5 ft 4 in)
Weight56 kg (123 lb)
Event(s)Sprint, long jump
ClubMayor Daley Youth Foundation, Chicago[1]
Coached byEd Temple
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)100 m – 11.5 (1964)
LJ – 6.55 m (1964)
Medal record
Representing the  United States
Olympic Games
Silver medal – second place 1956 Melbourne Long jump
Silver medal – second place 1964 Tokyo 4×100 m
Pan American Games
Gold medal – first place 1963 São Paulo Long Jump
Bronze medal – third place 1967 Winnipeg Long jump

Willye Brown White (December 31, 1939 – February 6, 2007)[2] was an American track and field athlete who took part in five Olympics from 1956 to 1972.[3] She was America's best female long jumper of the time and also competed in the 100 meters sprint. White was a Tennessee State University Tigerbelle under Coach Ed Temple. An African-American,[4] White was the first U.S. athlete to compete in track in five Olympics.

White is an inductee in the United States Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame.[5] A public park in Chicago is named in her honor.[6][7]

Athletic career

White 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, along with Wyomia Tyus, Marilyn White and Edith McGuire.[1]

During her career White won 13 national indoor and outdoor titles and set seven U.S. records in the long jump. Her last record of 6.55 m stood from 1964 until 1972.[1] She 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.


Born in Money, Mississippi,[8] 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.[1]

White moved to Chicago in 1960 and became a nurse, first at Cook County Hospital, then at the Greenwood Medical Center. In 1965 she got a job of a public health administrator at the Chicago Health Department, and in 1976 earned a bachelor's degree from Chicago State University. In those years White was active as an athletics coach, preparing the national team to the 1981 World Cup and 1994 U.S. Olympic Festival. In 1990, she founded WBW Hang on Productions, a sports and fitness consultancy, and in 1991 the Willye White Foundation. The Foundation aimed to help children and included an after-school program, a summer day-camp and healthcare.[1] She also served as director of the Chicago Park District.[6]

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


  1. ^ a b c d e Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Willye White". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 2020-04-17.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Willye B. White's Biography". The HistoryMakers. Retrieved 2023-02-22.
  4. ^ "From the Mississippi Delta to Olympic Glory: Willye White's Legacy Lives on". 16 February 2017.
  5. ^ Jones, Maddie (2019-07-21). "Willye White - U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame". United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum. Retrieved 2023-02-23.
  6. ^ a b "Chicago Park District celebrating key Black history makers". Chicago: CBS. 2023-02-22. Retrieved 2023-02-22.
  7. ^ "White (Willye B.) Park". Chicago Park District. Retrieved 2023-02-23.
  8. ^ Wiggins, David K. (26 March 2015). African Americans in Sports. Routledge. p. 401. ISBN 978-1-317-47744-0.