On this day 70 years ago, Alice Coachman became the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal. The American track and field star won the high jump at the London Games with a leap of 5-ft 6⅛ (1.68m), beating the previous 16-year world record by nearly 3 inches.
Born in Georgia, she ran bare-footed as a child along dirt roads near her home, and later dominating the Amateur Athletics high jump championship, winning ten national titles in a row. She also won national titles in the 50-and-100-meter dash and the 400-meter relay team as a student at the Tuskegee Institute (where she also won three conference championships as a guard on their women’s basketball team). Alice was in her prime during WW II when they canceled the 1940 and 1944 Olympic Games—otherwise, according to one sportswriter, “We would probably be talking about her as the No. 1 female athlete of all time.” WATCH a video… (1948)
Upon her return from the Olympics, Coachman became a celebrity, meeting with President Harry Truman and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She was honored with parades and was thrown a party by Count Basie. In ‘52 she became the first black woman to win an endorsement deal when she was signed by Coca-Cola, who featured her prominently on billboards alongside 1936 Olympic winner Jesse Owens.
MORE Good News on this Day:
- George Washington established the Purple Heart medal (first called the Badge of Military Merit) as commander of the Continental Army (1782)
- Simón Bolívar triumphs over Spain as a hero in the Battle of Boyacá (1819)
- The Peace Bridge opened between Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, New York, commemorating 100 years of peace between Canada and the U.S. (1927)
- The balsa wood raft Kon-Tiki reached the Tuamotu Islands after Thor Heyerdahl’s 101-day (4375-mile) journey across the Pacific, which proved that prehistoric peoples could have traveled from South America (1947)
- The Quarrymen played at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, and because it was still a jazz club with only some tolerance for skiffle music, when John Lennon dared to play ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, the club owner sent a note to the stage saying, “Cut out the bloody rock!”—but within four years, The Beatles had established themselves as the Club’s signature act (1957)
- NBC aired the final day of Watergate hearings on U.S. daytime television (1973)
- Philippe Petit performed a high wire act between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, 1,368 feet (417 m) off the ground (1974)
- After a screaming foul ball critically injured a 4-year-old in Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox player Jim Rice sprinted out of the dugout, scooped him up, and rushed him into the baseball clubhouse “saving the boy’s life” with medical care that was provided in just seconds, before he was rushed to a hospital for surgery to relieve swelling in his brain—a moment immortalized by a photo of Rice cradling the bleeding child, who fully recovered with only a light scar above his left eye. (1982)
Notable Birthday: Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden singer-songwriter, airline pilot, and entrepreneur (60); Garrison Keillor, author, storyteller, humorist, and radio personality (76)
And, on this day in 1981,Good News Network founder Geri Weis-Corbley was sent to cover her first news story as an ENG camera operator for a Washington, DC television news bureau, becoming one of the first females to be assigned a portable news camera in the nation’s capital. (Photo: Geri shooting in Leysin, Switzerland, 1985)