Alice Coachman Davis, 1st black woman to win Olympic gold, dies - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Alice Coachman Davis, 1st black woman to win Olympic gold, dies

(Source: WALB File photo) (Source: WALB File photo)
WALB Anchor Karla Heath-Sands pauses for a photo with Coachman Davis WALB Anchor Karla Heath-Sands pauses for a photo with Coachman Davis
Poster promoting the 1948 Olymipcs (Source: Wiki Commons/The National Archives UK) Poster promoting the 1948 Olymipcs (Source: Wiki Commons/The National Archives UK)
(Source: WALB file photo) (Source: WALB file photo)
ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

Alice Coachman Davis, the first black female to win Olympic gold, died Monday. She was 90 years old.

Coachman Davis suffered a stroke in April, and died at an Albany hospital Monday morning.

"Alice Coachman was a beautiful person inside and out," recalled Dr. Wilburn Campbell, who was a friend of Coachman Davis. "Very humble person. Never forgot where she came from. Very appreciative of people."

The track and field star was born in Albany, GA Nov. 9, 1923, as Alice Coachman - the fifth child of 10 in her family.

Because of segregation, she often ran barefoot on dirt roads, according to Biography.com, and she trained with the boys’ track coach at Madison High School.

Davis attended Tuskegee University at age 16, and before classes had begun, won her first Amateur Athletic Union Championship in the high jump.

While in college, she specialized in running both the indoor and outdoor 50-meter dash, as well as the high jump.

She qualified for the Olympics held from 1940 to 1948, but because of World War II, was unable to compete in 1940 and 1944.

Davis did win gold in the high jump at the 1948 Olympics in London, the only U.S. woman to win gold that year. She set a record with a jump of 5’6” during the Games.

"I didn't know I'd won," Coachman said. "I was on my way to receive the medal and I saw my name on the board. And, of course, I glanced over into the stands where my coach was and she was clapping her hands."

During the years when the U.S. did not compete in the Olympics, Davis competed for Tuskegee in both the high jump and 50-meter dash.

Davis made history as becoming the first black woman to get an endorsement deal. She signed with Coca-Cola in 1952.

To support young athletes, she also created the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation.

Her legacy was recognized at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta when she was honored as one of the 100 greatest Olympians in history.

“I paved the way for all of them,” she said.

She was inducted into nine different hall of fames, including The National Track & Field Hall of Fame and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004.

Coachman Elementary School in Albany is named in her honor.

Copyright 2014 WALB.  All rights reserved.

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