Georgia USATF Inducts Inaugural Hall of Fame
By Jim Dugger
The Georgia USATF inducted its inaugural class into the Georgia Track and Field Hall of Fame at the annual Georgia Awards Banquet held in Lilburn, GA, on Aug. 14. Led by former USOC President Dr. Leroy Walker, the class included athletes spanning a 50-year time frame, from the legendary hurdler Spec Towns, to Edwin Moses, winner of 107 consecutive races and two Olympic Gold Medals.
USATF President Ian Dube stated during the induction ceremony that “Induction into the Georgia Track and Field Hall of Fame is the greatest tribute we can bestow on these individuals. Each of these remarkable individuals has made unique contributions to our state through sport, and we look forward to honoring them as they take their rightful place in the USATF Georgia Hall of Fame.”
The USATF Georgia Hall of Fame was established in 2011 to recognize the outstanding achievements of individuals involved in the sport of Athletics (and international term for track and field), while living within the geographic boundaries of the Georgia Association. The selection committee reviewed more than 30 candidates for the Georgia Hall of Fame that included coaches, officials, volunteers, and open athletes. The finalists were voted on by members of the Georgia Association in June 2011.
Unless you are a die in the wool track and field fan, you probably have never heard of several of these athletes. I was not familiar with some myself, while several I have had the privilege of watching compete. A brief bio will follow all the inductees.
Members of the Inaugural Georgia USATF Hall of Fame are Alice Marie Coachman, Roger Kingdom, Al Mead, Edwin Moses, Gwen Torrence, Spec Towns, Wyomia Tyus and Dr. Leroy Walker.
Alice Marie Coachman: Born in Albany, she dominated the high jump event for more than a decade and was the only American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in Athletics in 1948.
Roger Kingdom: Born in Vienna, (the sign at the city limits says so) Kingdom won high school state titles in the 120-yard high hurdles, high jump and discus his junior and senior years. Winner of two Olympic gold medals in the 110-meter hurdles in 1984 and 1988.
Al Mead: At the Seoul Paralympic Games in 1988, Mead won the gold medal and set a world record in the long jump and won a silver medal in the 1992 Paralympics. I remember a poster promoting the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta that featured Mead and it stated that “Al Mead only has one leg. He uses the other to kick butt.”
Edwin Moses: A graduate of Morehouse College, Moses was the most dominate intermediate (400 meters) hurdler of any era winning 107 consecutive races including a world record setting Gold medal win in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games and another Olympic gold medal in 1984 in Los Angeles.
Gwen Torrance: While at Columbia High School in Dekalb. Torrance was a three-time state champion in the 100 meters. She took her sprinting skills to the University of Georgia where became a 12- time All American and four-time NCAA champion. At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain she won gold medals in the 200 meters and 4x100-meter relay and a silver medal in the 4x400 relay. In 1996 in Atlanta she won a gold medal in the 4x100-meter relay and a silver medal in the 100meters. Torrance was also known to show up at the ATC all comers meets at Emory University and dust any of the guys who were bold enough to go to the starting line with her. Most would just change heats.
Forrest Grady “Spec” Towns: Growing up in Augusta, Towns would become UGA’s first Olympic Gold Medalist in 1926 in Berlin, Germany where he set the world record in 14.1 as well as became the first Georgian to ever win an Olympic Gold Medal. Shortly after the 1926 Berlin Games he became the first hurdler to ever break 14 seconds and improved the world record to 13.7 that stood nearly 25 years. The track at UGA is named in his honor.
Wyomia Tyus: a native of Griffin, she was the first person to ever win consecutive Olympic gold medals in the 100-meter dash in 1964 and 1968. In 1968 at the high altitude Mexico City Olympic Games she anchored the gold medal winning 4 X100 meter relay team.
Dr. Leroy Walker: Born and raised in Atlanta, Dr. Walker served as the 1976 U.S. Men’s Olympic coach. He served as TAC (The Athletic Congress) president from 1984-88 and played an instrumental role in Atlanta hosting the 1996 Olympic Games. He later served as president of the U. S. Olympic Committee from 1992–96.
With the 2011 Georgia Track and Field Hall of Fame now in place, it’s time to start planning for the 2012 class of inductees. The initial class was void of any distance runners so get your thinking caps on and submit your nominees to the Georgia Association. Mine would be Zonker himself, Benji Durden.