The world of sports has always been captivating, filled with stories of determination, resilience, and triumph. The legendary Tennessee State Tigerbelles are one of those teams that triumphed throughout many Olympics, even with the odds against them.
On this episode with talk with Aime Alley Card, author of the new book The Tigerbelles: Olympic Legends from Tennessee State. Aime’s book covers the early years of the Tigerbelles, when Ed Temple became coach of the women’s track and field team, through the Rome 1960 Olympics. Through meticulous research and interviews, Aime captures the teammates’ voices to not just tell the story of the team, its hard work, and its Olympic triumphs, but she also gives us insight into how these women grew up and the segregation they dealt with at college and traveling around the country for meets.
It’s an excellent read–you can get a 20% discount if you pre-order a copy at Rowman.com. Use code LPTIGERBELLES24 [note: we do not receive any compensation for this offer.]
In our Seoul 1988 history moment, Jill tells the story of the North Korean plot to take out the Olympics–and she gets a new nickname!
In our visit to TKFLASTAN, we’ve got updates from:
In Paris 2024 news, the Paralympic Torch Relay route has been announced. See the details of the short, but fantastic event!
We also officially have a novela for these Games: The surfingnovela! Activists are worried about the metal structure that’s planned for the area of Tahiti that will host the surfing competition. Concerns include irreparable damage to the reef and changing the wave itself. Paris 2024 has said it’ll comment more at the end of November.
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Author Aime Alley Card and Olympic Legends The Tigerbelles (Episode 313)
[00:00:00] Jill: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast for fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. If you love the Games, we are the show for you. Each week we share stories from athletes and people behind the scenes to help you have more fun watching the Games. I am your host, Jill Jaracz, joined as always by my lovely co host, Alison Brown.
Alison, hello, how are you?
[00:00:48] Alison: Hello. I am very proud of myself today. Yes. I am wearing the appropriate color. You know, I’m always talking about how I’m not dressed appropriately for our topic. I am in big blue. And that is appropriate.
Aime Alley Card Interview
[00:01:02] Jill: That is appropriate because we are talking about the Tigerbelles today. So excited.
We love anything Tigerbelles. And today’s guest has written a new book about the legendary Tennessee State women’s track and field team. Aime Alley Card is the author of the book, The Tigerbelles: Olympic Legends from Tennessee State, which is due to come out on January 2nd, 2024. We talked with Aime about a writing process and some of the stories about the book.
And after the conversation, we’ll tell you About a special offer for listeners. Take a listen.
Aime Alley Card, thank you so much for joining us. You have a . New book out on the Tigerbelles called The Tigerbelles: Olympic Legends from Tennessee State.
Very exciting for us because we love Tigerbelles. And you decided to focus on the early stage of the Tigerbelles from the… Early to late 1950s through Rome, 1960, [00:02:00] what made you want to cover that time period and then stop? ,
[00:02:03] Aime Alley Card: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here. It’s a serious enthusiasm for the Tigerbelles. I’m just excited to share their story. Really wanted to focus on the origins of the Tigerbelles. Because I think that what they did in the early days was even more challenging because they were just creating a template that had never existed before.
And so I feel like the early days of the Tigerbelles is almost most important to their story. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I would love to do a follow up for going up, into the eighties and the heyday, but I felt like this story for now, and sometimes, this may reach people that are just hearing about the Tigerbelles for the first time.
And I. Felt like the real origins of their stories was critical to tell right now. And up to 1960, which to me was when they really were, they were starting to get on the world stage before, but in 1960 was really when the world was. Okay. Who are these women and what are they doing? So that’s, I felt like the highlight of their early range of Tigerbelles.
[00:03:11] Alison: We’ll get to 1960. Don’t worry.
[00:03:13] Aime Alley Card: We
[00:03:16] Alison: want to, we want to go a little further back. So getting into this. how long did this take you to put together and the interviews and all the research?
[00:03:25] Aime Alley Card: I was working for it on it for about eight years just off and on and there’s COVID in there.
There are other things but I had this idea in my head For about eight years and I was able to talk to Coach Temple before he passed away so grateful to have the opportunity and That just over the years met more people and dug into the research and I really had to do my own research before I even really talked to that many people just to know what they had all actually done and put it in all in context for the time to [00:04:00] know where the gaps might be and some of the interviews I had access to so that the process was long and I’m just glad that Finally, people are starting to want to read it.
[00:04:12] Alison: Was anyone not willing to talk to you or hesitant?
[00:04:16] Aime Alley Card: Yeah, actually that was A lot of the older Tigerbelles. I feel like their story has been shared so many times and I think rightfully They’re suspicious of anybody coming along. They don’t know what the angle is going to be and they’ve also they’ve just I think they may be just kind of tired They’ve shared their story so many times and nothing ever happens, people have been promising Movies, I think they deserve a big feature film kind of movie people have been saying, you know There are these possibilities all along and I know that they I feel like they think that they’ve given so many interviews over the years, and if people want to know about them, there’s plenty out there, and that’s there.
I was able to get a lot of information that they and a lot of times, those concurrent interviews, those interviews that they did, closer to the time of when they actually were running, those really give you a lot more detail, I think, and a lot more really what they’re feeling as young women, and it’s also valuable at the end of their lives.
to be looking at toward the, you know, after they’ve had some perspective to be looking back on their experience. But it’s different from how you were living through it at the time. Because I think a lot of times they’re, maybe willing to give people a pass that didn’t deserve it because they’re just going to forget, you know, it doesn’t serve them to hang on to anger from their mistreatment for so long.
And some of their, Early, younger interviews, they were hot and that was [00:06:00] appropriate, you know, and so it was kind of nice to see that, and that also the range of what their feelings might have been like over their lifetime. But yeah, I wasn’t able to talk to everybody. And I hope that maybe that opportunity still exists.
whEn it comes out and they see that it’s a fair treatment. I used, direct quotes. As often as I could, um, I’d love for that to continue on with articles or interviews that they would want to do just, you know, because they’re the best ones to tell their story. And that’s really why my approach here was almost documentary style using, so it was very quote heavy, because I really felt like they deserved to tell their story the way they want to do without A lot of analysis from me thrown in.
It’s my analysis. There’s more context. that was the goal.
[00:06:52] Jill: And really, at the time, there wasn’t a ton written about. The Tigerbelles as they were performing and winning all of these, events and national titles and international titles and, Olympic titles, they didn’t get a whole lot of press, so how was it doing third party research, trying to build that history?
[00:07:18] Aime Alley Card: Well, it was really complicated. There were, I felt like I was putting together a giant puzzle.
Threading all because there were so, I mean, there weren’t a lot of early interviews, but then over time they have given a lot of interview interviews about their day.
And so I was just. Pulling together everything that I could find. And I was able to, I don’t know if you’ve ever talked to Dwight Lewis. He was a journalist for the Tennessee and he was a TSU alumni and he had gathered so many interviews over the years, audio interviews that weren’t published.
He actually wrote a book, , Mr. Temple and the Tigerbelles. But it was more of a picture book, [00:08:00] but he did a lot of interviews just for that and with Dwight Lewis, all of his interviews, and New Hope Academy did a whole series of interviews that they never published with Coach Temple, and they had Edith McGuire, and they had Barbara Jones talking about their experience, so I had access to, and those were, many, many hours of interviews, which were just priceless, and so with those, I just had to kind of humble myself.
Deconstruct all of the quotes and put them in more of a narrative and then I just filled in the puzzle with other things that were missing and pieces of context and then other interviews and Tracy Salisbury also did her PhD thesis on the Tigerbelles and she gave me access to that.
She really did some good work and paid a lot of attention to what she was calling the unknown Tigerbelles. But the, and they were fascinating to me as well. And there was almost no, I mean, if you think of, there’s very little information about, Barbara Jones or Lucinda Williams, there’s more on Wilma Rudolph, just because she wrote her own book.
But. If you’re thinking about like, even, or Martha Hudson, you know, those more those famous 1960, the relay team, but all the other women that were on that team, there’s even less about, so Shirley Crowder, I was fascinated with because she’s a hurdler and that’s I mean, I’m impressed with anybody who can hurdle because you have to have the speed, but also be able to have that technical skill of being able to run over the hurdles with just a, millimeter to spare.
And. And Shirley Crowder had this history of going for it and falling and so that she had a lot of anxiety around her races because she always had that fear about, so that was fascinating to me too. And just being able to, she knew her times weren’t going to get her on the podium at the Olympics.
But just making the team was her goal. And I felt like that’s a really important goal for other, when, you know, when you’re [00:10:00] looking at the scope of a team and the thing that was amazing about the tiger boss was that so many of them on this one team made the Olympic team, they got to that elite level and you think about all of the people on the team are helping each other, they’re pushing each other in practice and they’re, they’re all supporting each other and that’s how they all reach that level. Shirley Crowder was a really fascinating person to me and Joanne Terry, who had been practicing with the team for so long, but she hadn’t made the travel team until this year. And that is something of its own, so she’s practicing with people who had their work aid scholarships.
They weren’t full scholarships. They had to work for them, but still they had some help with tuition, but she didn’t have that. And she was still out there doing those. It’s really treacherous, tormenting practices that they had to do. I’m sure you’ve probably heard about the hill, the famous bill and the hitting the tanks, the running out to the tanks and the distance and all of that.
These women, they were part of that every morning and they, because they were there, Barbara James didn’t get to let up. Well, Maria didn’t get to let up and practice and they made just. Just the whole team made the rest of the superstars better, I thought. So that’s really why I want to focus on, the whole team in general.
But as always, when the story is told, the ones who win the gold medals rise to the top because they really did something incredible, but I think the context of all of them is really important.
[00:11:25] Alison: aNother thing that really surprised me was how young everybody is. how young Ed Temple was when he started, how young some of these girls were.
just talk a little bit about Ed Temple, because he really is the center of the book.
[00:11:39] Aime Alley Card: He is. And it’s funny because Barbara Jones Talked about that. She said, we thought he was a hundred years old and he was only nine years older than I knew he was barely just, and he was a kid when he was starting out when his first year coaching, he was, it was his first year after college.
So he was basically their age. And Mae Faggs had started[00:12:00] with the Tigerbelles. When she had actually not gotten straight into college. And so I think that he and Mae were almost the same age.
And, I know he had opportunities later in his career to do other things, but he felt like he was doing something really special with women. It was because he felt like they had potential that, I think he was doing the classic rooting for the underdog with them.
And I think once he realized that they had so much talent and they didn’t have anybody speaking for them and pulling for them and advocating for them, he. I knew that was his job, and I know after the 1960 Olympics in particular, he had had a really lucrative job opportunity to be with the diplomatic corps and Ghana, and he knew that if he did that, then nobody was going to be working with the Tigerbelles anymore, and he just couldn’t leave.
aT that point he had Edith McGuire coming up as a major recruit and he knew that he had brought her on so he had a responsibility to all these women, he talked about and Edwina talked about that part of the reason why a lot of the women wanted to come work with him is because he would sit down with their parents and say, I will be looking out for you.
These girls they’re going to be in the dorm at 10. There’s no messing around. I have all of these rules. They have to abide by the rules. If they don’t, they’re gone. He had all these strict rules and it was really not about being hard on them. It was about protecting them. It was about keeping them safe because He felt the responsibility of just their safety.
And he also saw the potential that they had to go, if they accomplished something great, they could go back into their communities and, help the next generation. And that was one of the biggest things that the Tigerbelles had, one of their mottos was you don’t graduate until you’re, you’re helping the people behind you beat you, , [00:14:00] they need to be better than you.
And so he definitely had that. He, a lot of them say, I think it was Lucinda Williams said that he saw things in us that we never even saw in ourselves. And at that point, he wasn’t a father yet, but he was already dating, he was married to to Charlie B, his wife, who was the mother of the Tigerbelles.
too. And you know, the den mother and they just felt like they were all their family and they had a responsibility to them and they knew that they had greatness in them and he knew his way to get that out was It’s just a work hard, have act, be excellent at everything you do. And he knew that the only way that many of these women would be able to get to college was to run, you know, athletics is your way to college, but this is, your opportunity to create.
A better life for yourself that you may not normally have had, and then you can go benefit your community and to a person, every single one of them did, they went back into their communities and they coached younger women and they taught. They taught kids all the way through and they brought these lessons that they learned, just from having the experience of being able to see the world in a way, you know, where most of them had not been able to do any kind of traveling.
And so just being able to see a wider world and know that other possibilities are out there and be able to tell people from their communities that that was something. That was invaluable. And that was actually more important to Coach Temple than even the results. I mean, he wanted to win, , he was very competitive and he wanted to win, but.
When I talked to him , I said, , what do you want people to know about the Tigerbelles? And he said, all of my Olympians graduated from college. That was the thing that he wanted everyone to know most. That was the first thing he wanted [00:16:00] people to know.
And that was what he was so proud of. And he had that, it’s kind of a famous story, but he had a, it would be a little shameful in this time, but I think it, you know, it didn’t feel like it was. putting a little extra pressure on the women, he would have every semester when their grades would come out, he would get the grades first and he would pull them all into.
the meeting. And, and he’d sit there and read all their grades out loud. They didn’t know what their grades are. And so they had that extra pressure. They did not wanna be embarrassed among their peers. And so they had to, okay, oh, you got AC Oh, that’s not gonna work. And then are you got an a good job?
You know, so their grades were. Really important to him. They had to maintain their grades to be able to compete and stay on the team. And so he knew, but that was not just about their daily grades. And it’s not just the way it is now where we’re trying to maintain a great average so that our team looks good.
It was really for them to have their best, to be getting the most that they could out of their experience and to be able to Set them up for their lives after school.
[00:17:05] Jill: One of the things I really liked was how you put the brushstrokes in for the times and talked about a lot of the women where they came from Mississippi, Willye White. Yeah. That’s what I thought. Willye White, who knew Emmett Till and the horrific segregation and lack of opportunity that a lot of the women faced or, on the flip side, people who came from the North to Tennessee State and just walked into this world of segregation that they didn’t know existed.
I really enjoyed how you painted that picture and that helps put into context just the focus on education because that was a way to lift up everybody. in that generation and make it, I feel like I’ve really understood how much Ed Temple felt for making sure that everyone was lifted up and trying to improve [00:18:00] the situation for black people in America.
[00:18:03] Aime Alley Card: Yeah. And in fact, Mae Faggs was, so she was one of the ones who came down from New Jersey. And if she hadn’t stayed to Coach Temple said that he didn’t think that the Tigerbelles would have existed because she was the way she was the superstar at her time. She was that kind of standout superstar.
Another person that people have heard about Wilma Rudolph, but a lot of people haven’t heard of Mae Faggs and Mae Faggs is who Wilma Rudolph idolized. You know, she was. Original. And so coach Temple knew that if he got Mae Faggs on the team, then other people would follow and he did the hard sell in her, he recruited her.
And it turned out that she was, between TSU and Tuskegee. And so she came to TSU because it wasn’t quite as far from New Jersey. And I think that like put the edge out, but I think also, I think that coach Temple was a big draw because. They had to feel that, his kind of protected that protectiveness over his team and all, but, he said that year was really hard the first year he was fighting for funding.
So she was raining. She had already been to the Olympics. She had made the Olympic team. She won in 1952 before she actually joined the Tigerbelles. I think she knew she was going to at that point, but she hadn’t officially joined. That was when she, on the relay. Team with Barbara Jones, won a gold medal in the Helsinki, and then she comes back to TSU and she had to deal with all of the, Jim Crow aspects of life that she did not have to experience in her life in New Jersey.
And that was really challenging. But also she didn’t have all the funding at TSU that she needed, for example, they didn’t, she was, defending her title as champion and, they didn’t have enough money to send her back to the championships in that year. And that, so she had to see somebody else win just because she couldn’t get there.
[00:20:00] And she had before that, so many years in a row that, so she was breaking her record just because they didn’t have the money. And so I think those two things in combination, she nearly left. And Coach Dunbar had to really work with her and. Promise her that, if you stick with us, we’re going to stick with you.
We’re going to build this team together. And it’s true. So she stuck with that. She all the way up to the 56 Olympics were the next ones that she went with the Tigerbelles and she knew, and that’s when they were really starting to. To grow together as a team. They were still young at the time, but she was able to see that, that what they were doing there was more than just, one off champions.
You know, before there were, they did have some individual runners, but as a team, they were going to be able to do something even more special, but they did, they really had to suffer through a lot more than just. the athletic accomplishment, but the challenges they were facing being in Tennessee and just, their travel from place to place was always more challenging.
I mean, there’s a story where they were going up to New York and because they. They didn’t have the funding. They would go in a caravan of the station wagons and they went up to Madison Square Gardens. They had to always stay at the Paramount hotel, but they were getting out of these cramped station wagons that they’ve been in with all their gear and everything.
And they were competing against people who had money to spend an extra couple of nights at the hotel so they could be well rested and well stretched out and ready to run. And that first year that they went with Mae Faggs as the leader, they didn’t know they had never had the opportunity to run on an indoor track.
So they didn’t understand about the banks that go around the corners. It would be your natural inclination to want to it. Slow down around the bank, but Mae Faggs had to teach him how to dig in and use those to spring off of and there are all kinds of [00:22:00] things that they not only because of the era that they were living through and being in the South, but also because of their funding.
I think it was all kind of related, but there were opportunities. So they were really fighting against. , obstacles on all sides on all fronts. And so I felt like that context was, because they accomplished something really amazing. But if you looked at what they had to go through, , it was Willye White said, I didn’t have obstacles in my path or I didn’t have stones in my path.
I had like boulders, and her. Motivation was really, really why it was very, frank about that. One of the reasons why she even wanted to travel with the team was just because she didn’t want to have to go home to her town and where she would have to work in the fields.
And so she said, I would do anything to get out of that. So she just worked and worked and that was her motivation. That was her, the extra push for her was just, I don’t want to go home. I’m gonna have to face that again. I did really want to share each of their backgrounds, too, because they each kind of had their own different challenges that they were trying to overcome to get there.
And it was a range, Barbara Jones came out of Chicago but she had missed that one Olympics, she made the 1952 Olympics, but not the 1956. So, she was kind of like that young diva. So her challenge was to try to prove that she really had it in her and she wasn’t just a fluke.
So they all had their own things to prove.
[00:23:30] Alison: Yeah, I thought it was very interesting that each of them became a character. Each of them became a person in the book because when you’re talking about the Tigerbelles, we do tend to think of them as a conglomerate. Wilma Rudolph and everybody else.
Yeah, yeah. The one thing that was the same for all of them, as you as you shared the interviews, they all loved Ed Temple, and they all loved each other, despite what could have been a very competitive [00:24:00] cutthroat atmosphere. And they certainly went through a lot. They shared not having a track, not having money, and yet that seemed to bring them all together.
[00:24:08] Aime Alley Card: I really credit that to just the Temples as a family, bringing them in and Coach Temple. You know, that was just his ethos. They talk about how. Oh, it was really competitive and the in practice, they’d be trash talking each other and, really couldn’t let up in practice at all.
But as soon as they left Tennessee State, They never talked about each other outside and they, because they knew it was them against, everyone else or just, and they also weren’t allowed to trash talk anybody else either. They had a point of. Edwina said it so well, she’s, they call it woofing, you know, and I was, okay, what we say is trash talk, and so they would, they were not allowed to do that.
They could do it and practice all they wanted to do, but, they had to show it on the track and they had to put everything on the track. They had to let, their performance speak to it itself, but, The Temple household, I think just, it seemed like such a nurturing place.
And I think that was one of the questions that I had when I, first time I talked to Chandra Cheesborough was everybody loves him so much, but they were miserable in practice. They were worked so hard and he didn’t let them get away with a single thing. You know, they were always getting in trouble for this or that.
But they love him was. Like our father, he really mentored us and nurtured us. And when I was talking with Edwina about, growing up in the Tigerbelle family, they would all say she shared her father, they shared their father with us. He was a father to all of them. And they, They were a part of the family there every Sunday They would cook over at the Temple [00:26:00] house and they’d talk about how their weeks had gone and it wasn’t you know They went over film and they went over what was happening with their track performances, but also how’s your life going?
How are the grades, Coach Temple had opinions about certain boys. They were dating or there were just a lot of different Aspects of their lives. And, there would be competitions among, I think one of the famous ones was Willye White and Margaret Matthews were really super competitive with each other and long jump, they would, Margaret Matthews broke 20 feet first, I think, and then Willye White beat her the next time.
, so they were constantly like breaking world records against each other because they, and they would always be giving each other a hard time in practice, but together, they really, it’s kind of the same level of bickering competitiveness that siblings would have, but they knew they were all a family and that time that they spent together.
Also another thing that promoted that closeness was because a lot of them did struggle with poverty and didn’t have, some had more advantages than others. And so if, for example, they had to go to an event and one of them didn’t have the right dress to wear, they would find it, you know, the Temples would get a dress for them.
They would, and Edwina said, My mom would take them downtown and we put it on the Sears Roebuck card and she’d pay it off, it was every day, you know, so they were doing this for the team because they didn’t want one person to not be prepared to be, they wanted all of them to be on equal footing and they worked really hard for that to happen.
And, and, I talked with Barbara Merle, who she was a friend, she was. Not a Tigerbelle, but she was really close friends with Wilma Rudolph. So Tennessee State had, , a homecoming queen that got elected when you were homecoming queen, it was really, you know, queen of, for the whole year, they were called Queens on campus and they had a status.
, they had their own [00:28:00] apartments and so anyway, the Queens, and she was also a leader in her sorority and, , they had this kind of. Everybody was all together and, Barbara was worried because So Charlie B was the, Charlie B was coach Temple’s wife and she was the den mother and she had most of the Tigerbelles would be in her sorority. That was alpha alpha alpha. And the deltas were Barbara Murrells, who was queen of the campus this year.
She was the Delta and she was worried that Charlie B was going to get upset with her spending so much time with Wilma. Wilma loved hanging out in the special queen suite with Barbara Merle and her, a fellow queen from the year before. but Barbara was taking Wilma under her wing and kind of, cause she was just this gangly kind of sporty kid who didn’t know, you know, she didn’t know how to.
Hey, necessarily. And so she, you know, in a real, she was just young. She was just a kid and she’d grown up with, you know, a huge family. And so Barbara took her under her wing and said, okay, this is what you want to wear. This is how you want to act at dinner. This is, you know, certain things because they had these high standards on campus.
And when you were learning these standards from the queen, that was, the epitome and Wilma was just enamored with her and was learning all of these things about, poise and how to behave. and. Barbara got a call one day from Charlie B and she said, Oh no, now I’m going to get in trouble.
What’s she going to say? She’s going to call what she’s going to say. No, Wilma can’t be a Delta. She has to be an AKA. All the Tiger belts are AKAs. And what she did was she said to Wilma, she said to Barbara, thank you so much for taking Wilma under your wing because I can see how Much. It’s making a difference with her.
so the point was, is that they really [00:30:00] wanted the women to be their best. They wanted them to have all of the experiences to, to elevate themselves that they could possibly have. And so whether it was being a Delta or whether it was being a K or whatever it was that was going to help.
And for, you know, mature Wilma and let her be ready to eventually be so poised on the world stage where she was meeting with Kings and presidents. And she knew that that was going to be valuable to her. She wasn’t being selfish about it. She, she wasn’t being competitive with the, rival sorority.
It was really all about the influence that, to help them all grow.
[00:30:43] Alison: And I want to talk about image because Ed Temple famously said foxes, not oxes. He was very concerned with how these girls look and even the girls themselves.
And I say girls, they were girls at the time, but the way themselves in the interview talk about that, their looks mattered to 21st century’s eyes. That’s very problematic. So put that in context and talk about how you reconcile that.
[00:31:12] Aime Alley Card: Well, I don’t think it is true. I’m not sure if I actually reconciled it because you’re right.
You’re absolutely right. It would be problematic in today’s ethos. I’m not sure if it’s always fair to compare a certain, you know, what was happening at a time because they had to exist in the time that they lived in and what Coach Temple was wanting them to do is to present themselves and the best with their best foot forward so that they would be able to be accepted by the wider world.
And he knew that they already had so many things working against them, but what they could control is how they presented themselves to the world. And I think that that’s what I’m taking from it. That’s what I think is the [00:32:00] ultimate takeaway. And I think that’s really where his heart was, but it definitely, I think there is.
Something that people still struggle with today about, beautiful athletes being a little bit easier to watch than other, so yeah, I mean, it’s definitely not, it’s probably the least comfortable topic that is something that they dealt with at the time because, not only Were they dealing with racism?
But they were dealing with a great deal of misogyny from all angles. There was the article that was in the New York Times about the image and it’s, the image and it was all about how, people didn’t want to see female athletes unless they were in some of the more attractive sports like gymnastics and swimming and, tennis, you know, these things are okay, but the title of the article was Venus is not a shot putter.
I Think that’s what they were facing at the time and they were trying to prove that they could be beautiful and, feminine and athletes, that’s not something that we prize. Now, for us, we, we really want to just see the athletic ability, but for them, I think that was something they were, they felt like they were fighting against. so it was something that they dealt with, but I mean, I can’t imagine they had a, a standard of, The way that they had to be where that was so strong that after they would run, they just run they were sweaty, they’d beat broken a record and They had to then towel off put some lipstick on, brush their hair, and get ready before they would give an interview.
Before they would talk to anybody or have their picture taken. And that’s just another layer of pressure that they had that now, I think that athletes still probably do face that.[00:34:00] In fact they definitely do, but It’s not as drastic, I think, as what they were going through at the time, but, that’s where they helped to push forward, they at least were saying, well, no, I mean, we’re, you can watch runners to, you this is another sport that can be, acceptable to you to watch females run, but I mean, they were, they also wanted to prove that it.
They could have babies after they ran and they could have a family. , they weren’t so unattractive to men that they wouldn’t be able to, have a relationship. But that’s the, also problematic that that was what they were held up. You know, that was kind of like in order to have a successful life, you must be married and have children.
It’s not something that we. We believe today, but in their time, it was very much the standard, the ideal, and that was something that they had to face.
[00:34:54] Alison: Oh, Aime I disagree that athletes don’t have to face
[00:34:57] Jill: that today.
[00:34:58] Aime Alley Card: I know. Okay. Sorry. I know we made progress, but
you’re absolutely right. I know. I was listening to another one of your episodes about the volleyball team and yeah, like that. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:35:12] Jill: One of the other pressure points the team faced and another element of the book that I really enjoyed getting the insight for was the civil rights movement going on in Nashville at the time.
And the struggle that these women faced with wanting to take part, but not really being allowed to take part because of what that would do to the Tigerbelle’s image. So tell us a little bit about that. Plus an element of the story has a personal connection with your family, which I also found fascinating.
[00:35:46] Aime Alley Card: Yeah. Yeah. that was one of the most heartbreaking things to get into. And I could just, feel the frustration and almost the regret. And this was one of the times where being interviewed later in your life and being [00:36:00] able to look back over the scope of things and to have a regret of not being able to participate.
And some of these things that you were, I think nobody at the time realized. What a movement they were starting in 1960 in Nashville when the protests, when the sit ins started, that was the year, you know, the kind of height of the Tigerbelles in this story, but that was when the protests were just starting for the first time in Nashville, and they weren’t allowed to participate because one of the things.
Specific to Tennessee State, because it was a state sponsored university, they were threatened with losing their funding if the kids kept participating, the students kept participating in the protest. And so the administration for Tennessee State was under a huge amount of pressure from the state government to cut it out.
They had some support, they had couple of students from Vanderbilt. Jim Lawson was one of the leaders and he was at the divinity school at Vanderbilt at the time, but mainly it was this. Students and John Lewis is the Baptist Seminary.
Those were where most of the kids were coming out with. Both of those schools were a lot smaller than Tennessee State. And so they really needed the Tennessee State kids to come in and. Just for numbers and also, but it was risky for the Tennessee State students because that was the state school, you know, most of them didn’t have, they didn’t have a lot of financial support at home and if they lost, if they, were expelled from school, then they were really putting everything on the line to be able to participate and.
For the athletes in particular, they were told, by the athletic director and then Coach Temple that they couldn’t participate or they lose their athletic eligibility and they would, and ultimately they would. Not be able to earn their degree. And so it was just a risk and they decided each person had to decide, but I [00:38:00] think they decided as a team that they had another purpose that they could show the world from what they accomplished.
They had another way to show what, young black women and in the South were capable of, that people didn’t believe, but That was definitely a hard thing for them not to be able to participate in, and where it touches into my family was my grandfather was a coach, the track coach at Vanderbilt at the time and he was the head of the P.
- department and so that was when there were protests on Vanderbilt’s campus it was starting to get Pretty intense. And he heard about his one of his best friends was Fred Russell, who was a writer for the National Banner. And He was really the only reporter that had the Tigerbelles on his radar.
He was the only reporter that really wrote about the Tennessee State athletes at the time at all. And the Tennessee State at the time, they were in their golden era. I mean, they had just incredible athletics. And all of the sports, particularly football and basketball, but particularly the Tigerbelles, because they were, winning internationally at that time.
And so Fred Russell was a good friend of my grandfather’s and he was telling him about the Tigerbelles. I think they were already kind of on his radar at the time, but he. They started to realize that Tennessee State was practicing, they were these elite athletes and they were practicing on a, a track that only went halfway around.
So they couldn’t run a 440. They couldn’t, I just can’t even imagine that, like, we athletes and Coach Temple had to rake it out. By hand, even the track that went around wasn’t, you know, it had holes in it and he would, get so mad because the football players would walk right over it with their cleats on the way to the track and so [00:40:00] my grandfather found out, you know that they didn’t have a in town in Nashville They didn’t have a track to practice on.
And so he invited them to come practice at Vanderbilt’s track. And the details on all of that are a little bit fuzzy about when it actually started and how I, what I hear is that it would, it had to be quiet because he wanted them to actually be able to practice and not.
Be, protested out of there because there would be, you know, wherever people would show up on the, the other side of town that there would be protests that would show up. And that did happen. but my grandfather and Coach Temple got to be good friends because what they shared in common was.
Look at these athletes, so he was giving something to Coach Temple and Coach Temple was giving something to him by showing his athletes what real athletes can do. For example, that year Ralph Boston he was on their team. He came over to practice on Vanderbilt’s campus and on Vanderbilt’s team.
That was my dad and also Lamar Alexander who was, later senator, governor of Tennessee and a senator and Lamar Alexander was saying that, there was one of their long jumpers Was winning the sec. He was the you know The best in the sec and then Ralph Boston would come over from across town and jump two See longer than him in practice.
And that’s how much better they were. But these SUC, the Vanderbilt’s team they had this track that just. So there and see most of the time and so I think that everybody agreed it should be put to some better use You know Coach Alley had the advantage of having some real athletes without his kids could watch up close and to see how they could perform and my aunt She loved it so much.
And this is one of the reasons why I got deeper into the story, but she grew up on campus at [00:42:00] the time she was only in middle school and she, when she heard that the Tigerbelles were going to be on campus, she would run over to the track so she wouldn’t miss a minute. And. She was kind of an athletic little girl, but she wasn’t really encouraged to play sports.
And for her to see the Tigerbelles running on the Vanderbilt track, she just felt like this is possible, this is something that she’d never believed that could happen before. And so I thought, For her to have that level of inspiration, this is something they, they have always been inspiring people and they hopefully always will continue to because they broke so many barriers that we’re still reaping the benefits from today.
[00:42:48] Alison: The Lamar Alexander cameo, I think is one of the best little pop ups in the book. and so much fun to see how one recent the story is. And how it crosses so many levels and parts, We promised we would get to 1960. I want to make sure we get there. we have told the story about Wilma Rudolph and the Black Gazelle and all these amazing things that they did.
What surprised you? What didn’t you know about 1960 and what the Tigerbelles accomplished diving into this?
[00:43:25] Aime Alley Card: well, my mind immediately instead of like to their accomplishments, my mind immediately goes to the fun stuff, like the dancing band, and the tension between Willye White and Coach Temple because, she had then kicked off the team for writing in a car with a boy and then she was back on the team.
For, the national team and that tension between the coach, that was kind of the fun stuff, but what really left me what I was really proud of for them, that left me with the pride of the, was just the [00:44:00] experience of the other Tigerbelles to the ones that just made the team that didn’t, they didn’t, they knew their times weren’t going to get them to that.
Probably even to the finals, they were just like at the best, they were just trying to make the finals, but just for them to be able to walk out for the opening ceremony behind Rafer Johnson, holding the flag and those moments that they had just feeling proud of their own accomplishments.
Feeling like they’re making a difference in the world altogether as a team. Those were the things that kind of blew me away more even than their individual accomplishments, but also Wilma Rudolph’s injury. Well, when she had injured her ankle and she wasn’t even sure if she was going to be able to perform. And then, she was the anchor of the relay at the time and it was throwing everything up in the air. But her ankle held, they had it all taped up and she broke all barriers.
She broke the world record. She, beat, she won every single heat that she performed on. I despite the fact that she was injured, despite the fact, Everyone was saying they didn’t believe her standards that she had sent in, to get a place so she was in the worst possible placement, the worst possible heat placement she had just, you know, everything was kind of working against her, but she was just able to push through on so many levels, but also.
I thought it was just really incredible how she wanted to get, she had already won her first two gold medals for the 100 and 200 and she really wanted to get that last one for her team. She was, it was really all about, she wanted them all to have the experience that she did. And and that was the, cause they had all.
They’d all missed their opportunity so far. That was their last chance for a medal, the rest of the team, and she just knew that. And [00:46:00] that last race was a real nail biter. I mean, they had a bobble and the baton. And I think that only a team that had been working together and knew each other so well at that point would have been able to overcome.
That bobble, you know, between Lucinda Williams and Wilma they were able to hit it twice, you know, hit the baton twice and Wilma just, everybody wishes that they had a single split time for that, because it would have been probably even more of, record breaking than she was able to do officially for the record, but she was so motivated to win for her team that that was.
That’s the story of the Tigerbelles, their team, they really wanted to do everything for each other. And so that those were some of the things that came out in 1960 that I think everybody really needs to know.
[00:46:55] Alison: What do you want readers to take away from the book?
[00:46:57] Aime Alley Card: Well, I think that there are a lot of sports stories out there that are the individual athletes and they’re, Individual success.
And you think of track as an individual sport, but the team of the Tigerbelles and the way that they work together was really what made them reach that next level. And I just feel like in a lot of ways today, individuals are celebrated and I just feel like the value of the team is a little understated.
And I, that’s the thing that I really was hoping would come through from the Tigerbelles because. They were a team. They worked together and they all helped each other succeed. And that’s really what I hope people take away from it.
[00:47:43] Jill: Excelent. Aime Alley C ard, thank you so much for joining us and thank you for writing this book.
It was really interesting and we really enjoyed it and hope our listeners do too.
[00:47:53] Aime Alley Card: Thanks so much for having me. It was so much fun to talk to you
[00:47:56] Jill: Thank you so much, Aime. You can find out more about [00:48:00] Aime@Aimecard.com. We’ll also have links to her Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages. She also has a sub stack, which is Aime ali card dot sub stack.com. And Aime is spelled AIME. We also have a discount code. If you pre order the book, you can go to Rowman.
com. That’s R O W M A N and use the code LPTIGERBELLS24 for 20 percent off pre orders of the book. Which is a good deal.
[00:48:30] Alison: I’ll take 20 percent off.
[00:48:32] Jill: And it’s a very good book. we , highly recommend this one. What else do we recommend? Kickstarter.
[00:48:39] Alison: So this year we lost the Olympic channel and you know, we talked about that.
A lot of our listeners talked about that. And why do broadcasters think we don’t want to relive all the amazing moments from the Olympics and the Paralympics? But you know what you don’t lose? Our shows, our podcasts do not go away and anytime you want, you can go back and listen to the daily shows from Beijing and Tokyo and experience the thrill of those games all over again.
So for Paris, we will be producing. 34 daily shows for the Olympics and Paralympics, and those shows will live on for you to experience over and over again. But to produce those 34 shows, we need your help. Please support our Kickstarter campaign so we can preserve the best moments from Paris for you. And you can find the link to our campaign on our website, flamealivepod.
com, and thank you for your generosity.
[00:49:39] Jill: And for those shows to live on, frankly, we need some support for that. , the Kickstarter is actually quite vital for us to keep our flame alive.
And, if our flame has to go out. That may happen. So please do check out the campaign at flamealivepod. com.
Seoul 1988 History Moment
[00:50:01] Jill: That sound means it is time for our history moment. All year long we’ve been looking at Seoul 1988 as it is the 35th anniversary of those games. My turn for a story and I have been enveloped in the world of intrigue and espionage. Today. Oh, fantastic. So, you know, there’s always a concern that some outside event will try to disrupt the games, and it was no different for Seoul, 1988.
Perpetrator? North Korea. Oh, there’s a shocker. Right. So, you’ll remember from our conversations with Dick Pound that North Korea wanted to co host, and they negotiated and negotiated. That didn’t work out for North Korea, so in retaliation, they decided to go the route of violence.
[00:50:45] Alison: North Korea, South Korea.
Not genial co hosts like Jill and Allison do not work well together.
[00:50:55] Jill: I have a feeling if this would, that would actually happen, I’d be the North Korea. I don’t know. I’d be the fun South Korean person.
I’d be kim Jung Jill looking at stuff.
[00:51:13] Alison: We shouldn’t downplay the violence, Kim Jong Jil.
[00:51:16] Jill: No, no, we should not. So, , they decided to do what they could to try to get the games canceled or ruin South Korea’s credibility. And so their plan was a plane bombing. In the fall of 1987, 25 year old North Korean spy, Kim Hyong Hui, was sent on a mission with orders from the top.
So the Washington Post said it was handwritten by Kim Il Sung. , CIA said in the televised confession that Kim Jong il gave the orders, but they… They probably worked in tandem to make this happen. So, our spy, Kim, as a cover, she played a Japanese tourist, complete with fake passport and name.
She was paired with a 70 year old man named Kim Sung Il, who played her [00:52:00] Japanese father. And for weeks, the two traveled across Europe pretending to be tourists. And in Belgrade, they met up with some other spies who gave them a portable radio. that contained C4 explosives, but also still worked as a radio magically because she did have to show that it worked at some point along the journey.
And then they also gave him a liquor bottle with 700 milliliters of PLX explosives that would increase the power of the blast. On November 27th, the spies flew on to Baghdad and there Kim started the bomb’s timer, which was set to go off nine hours later, and she got on Korean Air Flight 858.
to Seoul via Abu Dhabi, where she stowed the bomb in the overhead compartment. So in Abu Dhabi, the pair got off the plane, flight 858 continued on, and the plane disappeared somewhere over the Andaman Sea off the coast of Myanmar, just before it was supposed to stop in Thailand for refueling. And according to the Korea Herald, the pilots gave no distress calls, so they didn’t know what happened there.
All 115 people on board died. 113 were South Korean. There was also one Indian citizen and one from Lebanon. Most of these people were construction workers who had been working in the Middle East for years and were on their way home. Also on board was Korean Consul General to Iraq and his wife. And the pilot was a former Air Force officer and veteran of the Korean War who had retired the year before, but was back on a short term contract.
Meanwhile, while this is unfolding, Kim and her partner start working their way home, but they were stopped in Bahrain when authorities saw their weird flight patterns and authorities asked for their passports and that was when the two of them knew they’re in trouble. So the directive there is if you’re in trouble, kill yourself.
And so [00:54:00] they tried by biting down on cyanide laced Marlboro cigarettes. Kim’s partner died, but Kim did not. She ended up in the hospital. She tried to pass herself off as a Chinese orphan in hopes they’d send her to China, but no. The cyanide, and the fact that the fillings in her mouth were made from soldered lead, were a dead giveaway that she was North Korean.
[00:54:23] Alison: Wow. I remember this. This is…
[00:54:26] Jill: Oh, do you? Yeah,
[00:54:27] Alison: I do. Yeah, I do remember this and it was Horrific.
[00:54:31] Jill: Kim was extradited to South Korea in mid December, a day before South Korea held its first direct presidential election in 16 years, and also from talking with Dick Pound, we know that that was a huge deal.
There are some pictures of her being let off the plane with a big bandage over her mouth to prevent biting. She endured 8 days of questioning, during which time she was taken out into Seoul, and she saw that it was nothing like what North Korea told her. She realized she’d been a pawn, and she confessed.
She was put into detention, where she saw the opening ceremonies of the games on TV. meanwhile, North Korea, of course, denied any wrongdoing. In 1989, Kim was sentenced to death, but the following year, the South Korean president pardoned her because she had been used by the North Korean government.
She apologized with, for her actions, which helped her case with the public. She also wrote a book called Tears of My Soul and gave the proceeds to family members of the victims. Kim still lives in South Korea today. She lives under police protection in case North Korea comes after her. She’s tried to build as normal a life as possible.
She’s married one of the South Korean agents who handled her case, and they have two daughters who are now in their twenties. In 2020, Daegu NBC TV recorded footage of wreckage in the Andaman Sea, which they believe could be the fuselage of flight 858. And the South Korean government has been unable to make a deal with the [00:56:00] government of Myanmar to do of.
Complete and thorough search for it. So, today there is a monument to the victims in Seoul, and this goes on as one of the tragedies that led up to the games, but did not accomplish North Korea’s goals, ultimate goals of ruining them.
[00:56:21] Alison: Welcome to STKLASTAN
[00:56:26] Jill: it is the time of the show where we check in with our team, Keep the Flame Alive. These are past guests of the show and listeners who make up our citizens, our citizenship of our very own country, TKFLASTAN. It’s winter sports season again. I cannot believe this speed skater, Erin Jackson’s back on the ice and at world cup number one in Obihiro, Japan, she took silver in the 500 meters.
[00:56:52] Alison: And I want to mention, Josh Williamson is back in the sled. Oh, good! He has recovered from his surgery and he’s been posting footage from Lake Placid, and Mount Van Hovenberg, that , he’s getting back in the sled.
[00:57:04] Jill: Awesome.
[00:57:05] Alison: And Andrew Maraniss book, Strong Inside, Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South will have a 10th anniversary re release on March 5th, 2024.
It will include a new forward by scholars Lou Moore and Derek White and a new chapter on Perry Wallace’s legacy.
Paris 2024 Update
[00:57:26] Jill: Bonsoir! Bonsoir. Yeah, it is evening when we tape this. but big news is that the Paralympic torch relay has been announced. This is going to be something very different than the Olympic torch relay.
In part because they don’t have a ton of time to… Have it to be quite honest,
[00:57:51] Alison: light the flame and run. None of this, strolling through your section when you’ve got the flame, you got to book it and get this thing from [00:58:00] Stoke Mandeville to Paris fast,
[00:58:02] Jill: right? So, the torch relay will take place from August 25 to August 28.
So it’s only four days long, but there’s going to be. A thousand torchbearers carrying the flame to around 50 cities throughout France during that time and how they will do this is that the flame is going to be lit in Stoke Mandeville as we have told talked about before. It is going to run under the chunnel.
It’s going in the channel.
[00:58:30] Alison: I was so excited about this. The flame is riding the
[00:58:35] Jill: channel. 24 British athletes start that channel leg and then halfway through when you get to the French territory, 24 French athletes take over and they finish the rest of the channel leg. This is so cool.
then the flame splits once it gets to France into 12 different flames that kind of branch out all over the country. And then they work their way back to Paris.
[00:59:03] Alison: it’s involved. It looks beautiful. I’m hoping this means that we’re going to have all of these 12 come back together during the opening ceremonies.
And have just a really dramatic cauldron lighting for that.
[00:59:18] Jill: That would be cool! , we’ll have a link to all the details on our website flamealivepod. com But it’s gonna be amazing and a, you know the French are not doing anything, simply.
[00:59:30] Alison: Would you expect anything else? Ooh la la, c’est French!
[00:59:34] Jill: I guess not, but I mean like , you look at French women and they can dress so very simply.
But I guess like, I know,
[00:59:42] Alison: I know, but it does not need to be extravagant. It is just chic.
[00:59:46] Jill: Well, this has got to be one chic torch relay, which makes up for the fact that we’ve got another novela going on. I’m so excited that the novelas are back,
[00:59:55] Alison: but not excited. As
[00:59:58] Jill: to what it is. No, and [01:00:00] it’s not good that the novelas are back, but I need a little drama in my life that I don’t cause.
So, this is the surfing novela and there’s still an issue with the surfing tower that is in Tahiti. By the end of November, the organizing committee is going to decide. What is going to happen next, because we’ve , told you before that they want to build a new judging tower because the current one is wooden. It’s not big enough, not air conditioned, but the one they want to build could potentially damage the reef that is around the area.
It also could impact the wave that so they so desperately want for this competition.
[01:00:43] Alison: I’ll give them a wave.
[01:00:46] Jill: Over 150, 000 people have signed a petition against this plan to build this kind of rather permanent, , aluminum or metal tower in the, , water. And the ironic thing is that they say, look, this is not sustainable and you keep calling yourself the sustainable games.
Hmm. What’s going on? So that’s the, current plan.
[01:01:10] Alison: It’s a little ridiculous that they’re announcing that they’re going to announce
[01:01:13] Jill: something. I know, but , it’s caused a big controversy and I think they feel like they have to say something, otherwise the longer they don’t say anything, the more the cries , will come out for.
[01:01:25] Alison: what they need to say? They need to say, Au revoir Tahiti.
[01:01:30] Jill: Yeah, and that’s not happening. Other proposals have been to. Move to a different section of the island that has good waves, but it’s not the wave at Teahupo. So the
[01:01:42] Alison: only way that this could get more novela is at the time of the Olympics.
And I do not wish this because anything that hurts the athletes. I am not for like have a tsunami or something. And I’ll be like, there’s your wave there.
[01:01:58] Jill: Wow. [01:02:00]
[01:02:01] Alison: Just this whole production was. Wrong from the beginning. We all know it moving
[01:02:08] Jill: on. We’ll see. I’m very curious to see how surfing will do this time around.
we had issues in Japan. The competition had issues just because the weather was tough, but we had issues even understanding the sport because of commentary. The commentary was also rough, I would
[01:02:26] Alison: say. I gave them a wave.
[01:02:28] Jill: The Alice in Tsunami wave.
[01:02:32] Alison: It’s not pretty, I’ll tell you that right now.
It is not my big blue that I am wearing for the Tigerbelles.
[01:02:41] Jill: On that note, we will, call it an episode for this week. Let us know what you think about the Tigerbelles.
[01:02:48] Alison: You can connect with us on X and Instagram at flamealivepod. Email us at flamealivepod at gmail. com. Call or text us at 208 352 6348. That’s 2 0 8 flame it. Be sure to join the Keep the Flame Alive Podcast Group on Facebook and don’t forget to get our weekly newsletter filled with other fun stories about this week’s episode.
You can sign up for that and find the link to our Kickstarter campaign at flamealivepod. com.
[01:03:23] Jill: Next week, uh, is Thanksgiving week in the U. S., so we will be being very thankful for many things, including you, our listeners, but that means we’ll also have a lightning round and we’re going to feature some of our favorite authors from the past few years and find out some of their favorite Olympic moments and sports they would try to attempt.
So be sure to tune into that. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, keep the flame alive.