In 2008, the Chicago Park District constructed a new field house in Gale School Park and renamed the entire site in honor of five-time Olympian Willye B. White.
Born on Dec. 31, 1939 in Money, Mississippi, Willye B. White was raised by her grandparents in Greenwood, Mississippi. She picked cotton to help support her family but also found time to participate in sports. As a 16-year-old high school sophomore, Willye spent summers training with famed track and field coach Ed Temple at Tennessee State University and soon won a silver medal in the long jump at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. This marked the first time an American woman had won a medal in that event. She went on compete in the next four more consecutive Olympic Games.
After moving to Chicago in 1960, she began a career as a practical nurse and went on to become a public health administrator. In 1991, she founded the Willye White Foundation to help children develop self-esteem and encourage them to become productive citizens. That same year, she began working for the Chicago Park District as Director of Recreation Services, developing important programs such as sports initiatives for young girls in housing projects, the Great American Workout at Buckingham Fountain, a football camp at Soldier Field for boys and girls, and a program to recognize outstanding female athletes in 66 City High Schools.
Throughout her life, Willye B. White received much recognition and many honors. UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, honored her humanitarian efforts—selecting her as the first American winner of the Pierre de Coubertin International Fair Play Award. Her impressive list of awards includes the President’s Council on Health and Physical Fitness National Honor Award and the Women’s Sports Foundation Wilma Rudolph Courage Award. She was entered on numerous distinguished lists of athletes including the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, the Sports Illustrated for Women 100 Greatest Athletes of the Century, and Ebony Magazine named Willye B. White one of the nation’s 10 Greatest Female Athletes.
3rd Tuesday of each month at 7:00pm