SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – In the Olympics, the U.S. teams have historically dominated the track and field events.
That rich history started with athletes like Lucinda Williams Adams.
She’s the African American runner who handed the baton to Wilma Rudolph in the 4×100 relay in Rome, Italy in 1960. The record-breaking race earned Team USA a gold medal.
But before Lucinda Williams became a gold medal Olympian, she was the daughter of a poor working-class family growing up in the segregated south.
During her recent visit back to her birth city, Savannah, she talked about how those days shaped her life.
“My parents had a home along the railroad track. That’s the beginning of my story,” she shared.
The harsh times she suffered as a child experiencing racism made her strong and fueled her to do something that would transform the world.
Why was running so special to her?
“I think because that’s all I knew,” she said. “I always would run from my brothers or run so they could catch me. They always tried to catch me, but they never could. And so, it was just something that was a part of me, and I think that’s what God was wanting me to do.”
Indeed, her passion was powered by her faith.
She revisited Piney Grove Baptist Church in Bloomingdale, where she was surrounded by a spiritual community that supported her dreams.
“We would walk on Sunday morning from my house, a whole group of kids,” Lucinda Williams recalled. “Every Sunday morning, we would come. It would be Sunday school and then church.
The small but mighty congregation would prove to be her backbone as her talents were discovered at the Tuskegee relays. That’s when legendary Tennessee State University coach Ed Temple offered her a scholarship, and she was off to college.
“My mom and dad took me to the Greyhound bus station, and the people from Bloomingdale, Boll Weevil Hill, they sent me off,” she said.
As I was beginning to get on the bus, the older ladies and the men, they said, ‘Here child, here’s a little piece of change. Take this with you.’ Quarter, nickel, dime whatever,” Lucinda Williams remembered.
“And that was part of me taking them with me,” she added. “And that’s why I never wanted to come back and not be representative of them, because they were all counting on me to lift them up, and I wanted them to be proud of me.”
She took those lessons all over the world as she turned her humble beginnings into Olympic gold.
Tune in to WSAV News 3 Friday to hear more of her journey and the legacy she’s leaving for young aspiring athletes.