NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Former Tennessee State track and field coach Ed Temple, who led the U.S. women’s team to 16 Olympic gold medals and helped break down racial and gender barriers within the sport, died Thursday night.
Temple’s daughter, Edwina, told Tennessee State officials that her father died after a lengthy undisclosed illness. He celebrated his 89th birthday on Tuesday.
Temple coached the women’s track team at Tennessee State, formerly Tennessee A&I, from 1953 to 1994. He was head coach of the U.S. Olympics women’s teams in 1960 and 1964 and assistant coach in 1980.
One of the athletes he coached at TSU, Wilma Rudolph, became the first American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympics, in Rome in 1960.
Temple’s accomplishments were even more impressive coming in the midst of severe racism and discrimination that permeated the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.
“Words cannot in any fashion or manner express how deeply saddened we are over the loss of our beloved Ed Temple,” said Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover. “The TSU family has truly lost a precious gem and contributor to the history and legacy that is TSU. Most importantly, our hearts go out to his family.”
Temple was head coach of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Track and Field teams in 1960 and 1964, and assistant coach in 1980. He was inducted into nine different Halls of Fame, including the Olympic Hall of Fame in 2012, in which he was one of only four coaches to be inducted. He also served as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the international Women’s Track and Field Committee and the Nashville Sports Council.
For many of his athletes, Temple wasn’t just a coach, but also a father figure.
“I always looked at Coach Temple as a father figure and a man of truth and wisdom,” said TSU Olympian Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice, a former Tigerbelle who inherited the title of TSU track and field coach from Temple. “He is one of the finest people I have ever had an opportunity to meet. He really brought out the best in me. He made me realize my potential that had not been tapped.”
“Even the Bible says a prophet is seldom honored in his hometown,” U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper said at a ceremony for the unveiling of the statue. “But here we are honoring perhaps one of the greatest coaches in all of history.”
Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor David Gregory issued the following statement today on the death of retired Tennessee State University Coach Ed Temple:
“We at the Tennessee Board of Regents are deeply saddened at the passing of Coach Ed Temple. For more than four decades, he led Tennessee State University athletes, including of course his Tigerbelles. But Coach Temple’s role extended far beyond the track: as his many players attest, he was a caring mentor to them and other students as well. Even after his retirement, he continued to represent TSU. Ed Temple represented all that is good with college athletics. He emphasized excellence in athletics, academics and in life. His former athletes are a testament to his mentorship. Nashville and Tennessee are better places that he was here. Our deepest sympathy to his family and to the TSU community.”