NPT to air Tom Neff’s ‘Mr. Temple and the Tigerbelles’
documentary about the storied TSU coach and team on May 7
NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Mr. Temple and the Tigerbelles is about the symbiotic relationship between legendary Tennessee State University track and field coach Ed Temple and his equally storied athletes. Under Temple’s leadership, the Tigerbelles team produced 40 Olympians who won 23 medals, 16 of them gold, during the Jim Crow era. This elite group not only excelled in sports, 100 percent of them graduated, many going on to receive advanced degrees. As the film shows, Temple’s program lives on in a new generation of athletes coached by Tigerbelle Olympic gold medalist Chandra Cheeseborough. Mr. Temple and the Tigerbelles airs on NPT on Tuesday, May 7, at 7 p.m.
“This documentary is a love letter to Nashville,” said Tigerbelles writer, director and producer Tom Neff, a professor in Media Arts at MTSU. “The Tigerbelles film is uniquely Nashvillian; it was created, financed, and produced entirely by Nashvillians and Nashville organizations in celebration of an unknown Nashville story.”
“Coach Temple was given $300 and two station wagons and told to go compete against the world,” retired Tennessean columnist Dwight Lewis says in the documentary. Temple is now immortalized with a statue next to the Nashville Sounds First Tennessee Park.
The Tigerbelles burst onto the scene at the 1956 Summer Games in Melbourne, Australia, when they won several bronze medals. They continued that domination at the 1960 Rome Games where Wilma Rudolph became the first American to win three gold medals at a single Olympics. The 1960 gold medal Olympic team included Barbara Jones Slater (the youngest woman to win gold in track and field), Lucinda Williams Adams, Martha Hudson Pennyman, and Wilma Rudolph. Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) won gold as light heavyweight. They all remained good friends.
Other medal-winning Tigerbelles include: Mae Faggs (called the Mother of the Tigerbelles), Madeline Manning Mims, Edith McGuire, Wyomia Tyus (the first male or female to win back-to-back gold in consecutive 100-meter Olympic events), Martha Hudson, Willye White, Kathy McMillan, Margaret Matthews Wilburn, Isabelle Daniels, and Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice, who still holds the Olympic trial record in the 400-meter race.
“This film tells the story of these extraordinary women who changed the world of sports through Coach Temple’s vision and mentoring,” said co-producer Shelley Hay.
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 has been inducted into nine different Halls of Fame, including the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2012, becoming one of only four coaches to receive that honor. His teams earned 23 Olympic medals, 34 national team titles, 30 Pan-American Games medals and nine National Track and Field Hall of Fame inductions. Coach Temple also served as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the International Women’s Track and Field Committee and the Nashville Sports Council.
Howard Gentry, Jr., TSU’s former interim athletic director, called Temple “an icon, not to be duplicated in any form. He built a team of world class track participants who changed the landscape of women’s track forever.”
TSU President Glenda Glover called Temple a “global icon in the world of track and field” and lauded him for what he did for athletes outside the sport. “His accomplishments are unparalleled and continue to resonate even today on our campus and with any organization participating in the sport.” she said.
Mr. Temple and the Tigerbelles was made possible by HCA Healthcare, The Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County and Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, the John R. Ingram Advised Fund at the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, and the efforts of fundraising chairman Bo Roberts.
Interviews (in order of appearance)
Mr. Ed Temple
Samuel J. Abernathy
Chandra “Coach Cheese” Cheeseborough
Edith McGuire Duvall
Linda T. Wynn
Dr. Nicole Williams-Parks
Dr. Madeline Manning-Mims
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