Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, 312-742-4786
Mrs. Maggie Daley, 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore, Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Timothy J. Mitchell, today dedicated the Willye B. White Community Center at 1610 W. Howard St. in the Rogers Park community.
The park, formerly known as Park No. 1043, was renamed for Willye B. White (1939-2007) last winter. Today, the group unveiled art work dedicated to the former Olympian.
The Chicago Park District and the Public Building Commission recently completed construction of the new 18,325 square ft. community center with a gymnasium, club rooms, a fitness center, offices, lockers and shower rooms. In honor of this impressive new facility, it was proposed that the park be named in honor of Willye B. White, a five-time Olympian who won two medals in the Olympics and numerous others in Pan-American Games and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) meets in track and field. Sports Illustrated for Women named her as one of the 100 greatest women athletes of the 20th century.
Born on Dec. 31, 1939, in Money, Mississippi, Willye 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, she 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 to compete in four consecutive Olympic Games.
After moving to Chicago in 1960, she began a career as a 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. In that capacity, she developed important programs such as sports initiatives for young girls in housing projects; the Great American Workout at Buckingham Fountain; a co-ed football camp at Soldier Field; and a program to recognize outstanding female athletes in 66 city high schools.
Throughout her life, Willye White received much recognition and many honors. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), honored her humanitarian efforts selecting her as the first American winner of the Pierre de Coubertin International Fair Play Award, named for the founder of the modern Olympic Games. She was elected to 11 halls of fame, and in 1999, Springfield College awarded her with an Honorary Doctorate Degree. The U.S. House of Representatives recently named a Chicago post office in her honor.