Wilma Rudolph born 06/23/40 - died 11/12/94
Wilma Rudolph was the 20th of 22 children. She was born prematurely and her survival was doubtful. When she was four years old, she contracted double pneumonia and scarlet fever, which left her with a paralyzed left leg. At age nine, she removed the metal leg brace she had been dependent on and began to walk without it. By age thirteen she had developed a rhythmic walk, which doctors said was a miracle. That same year (1953) she decided she was going to become a runner! She entered a race and came in last. Over the next few years she entered many races and in every one, she finished last! Everyone told her to quit, but she kept on running. One day she actually won a race. And then another race and another. She soon won every race she entered. Eventually this little girl, who was told repeatedly she would never walk again, in 1960, went on to win THREE Olympic gold medals in Rome Italy! This was a feat that no other American woman had ever been able to accomplish prior to Wilma doing so. She won the 100 and 200 meter races and anchored the U.S. team to victory in the 400-meter relay, breaking records along the way.
The above photo is one from my collection of many. It was taken April 20, 1994 when Wilma Rudolph was visiting Akron Ohio. I had the honor of spending some time with her. With me, in the photo, is Carol Zink one of Akronís prized 911 Dispatchers. Unfortunately Wilma's life ended all too soon less than seven months after this photo was taken as a result of cancer of the brain. She remains an inspiration to me and many others unto this day.
Last update 1/02/2001