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History


Mr. Temple and the Tigerbelles is the story of legendary track and field TSU (Tennessee State University) coach Ed Temple and the incredible group of 40 African American female athletes who broke the color barrier of the Olympics during the Jim Crow era. The Tigerbelles snagged 23 medals, 16 of them gold; the most renowned Tigerbelle was Wilma Rudolph, who in Rome 1960 became the first American to win three gold medals in one Olympic. Not only did they excel in track, but 100 percent of the Tigerbelles graduated, many going on to receive Masters and Doctorates.

The documentary, over 2 ½ years in the making, was a labor of love by all involved. “The first time I saw the promo for the film, I knew this was a story that had to be told,” says Shelley Hay, Co-Producer of the film, “These amazing women struggled through untold adversity to world success.” Bo Roberts, chairman of the team to raise funds for the new statue of Coach Temple now at the Bicentennial Mall next to the upcoming new Tennessee State Museum, also put his efforts to raising funds for the documentary, along with Howard Gentry and Christie Hauck. “People don’t realize what a treasure they have in their own backyard,” says Mr. Roberts, “Coach Temple is probably the most important coach in American history.”

Coach Temple was given $300 and two station wagons and told to go compete against the world.

– Nashville Historian, Dwight Lewis

“The more we got into the story, the more pressure we put on ourselves to tell it in an innovative way,” says Mr. Neff, an Assistant Professor who teaches film, documentaries and media management at the MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University) College of Media & Entertainment. “So many people contributed to the film. Students and faculty at MTSU either donated time or worked for very little pay. The editor, Barry Rubinow, did a stunning job of combining the footage from the Olympics with footage from the civil rights era, as well as footage from the Tigerbelles who still run today for Tennessee State University.”

“They could win gold medals at the Olympics, on a world stage, and yet come back home and not be able to eat in a restaurant,”

– Criminal Court Clerk of Davidson County, Howard Gentry