NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Legendary track and field coach Ed Temple, who led Tennessee State University’s famed Tigerbelles to 27 Olympic medals, has died. He was 89.
Temple’s daughter, Edwina, told university officials that her father died Thursday night from an undisclosed illness.
“Words cannot in any fashion or manner express how deeply saddened we are over the loss of our beloved Ed Temple,” said Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover. “The TSU family has truly lost a precious gem and contributor to the history and legacy that is TSU. Most importantly, our hearts go out to his family.”
Temple served as TSU’s women’s track coach from 1953 to 1994. He led more than 40 athletes to the Olympics, snagging 16 gold medals. His athletes also accumulated more than 30 national titles.
Temple’s accomplishments were even more impressive coming in the midst of severe racism and discrimination that permeated the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.
“There were times when riots were going on, but they kept running and competing,” said Dwight Lewis, who is co-authoring a book about the Tigerbelles. “They stuck with it and performed to the best of their ability, and won.”
For many of his athletes, Temple wasn’t just a coach, but also a father figure.
“I always looked at Coach Temple as a father figure and a man of truth and wisdom,” said TSU Olympian Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice, a former Tigerbelle who inherited the title of TSU track and field coach from Temple. “He is one of the finest people I have ever had an opportunity to meet. He really brought out the best in me. He made me realize my potential that had not been tapped.”
Former Tigerbelle Edith McGuire Duvall said Temple was there for her after she lost her father.
“This man treated us all like his kids,” Duvall said. “He impressed upon me to finish school. We were there to run track, but also to get an education and to be ladies.”
While Temple was a great coach, many say he will also be remembered for his efforts to help his athletes be successful beyond track and field.
Temple was proud of the success of his athletes on and off the field.
“They are an inspiration to everybody,” Temple said in an interview not long before his death. “It just shows what can be done. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
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 was inducted into nine different Halls of Fame, including the Olympic Hall of Fame in 2012, in which he was one of only four coaches to be inducted. He also served as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the international Women’s Track and Field Committee and the Nashville Sports Council.
In addition to being part of the Tennessee State University Hall of Fame, Temple’s legacy continues in such recognitions as the Edward S. Temple Track at TSU; Ed Temple Boulevard in Nashville, adjacent to the TSU campus; the Edward Temple Award established by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Track and Field Coaches Association; and the Edward S. Temple Seminars: Society and Sports, held annually at TSU.
Temple’s autobiography, Only the Pure in Heart Survive, was published in 1980. The book, along with additional papers and memorabilia from his lifetime of achievement, are part of the Special Collections department in TSU’s Brown-Daniel Library.
In 2015, a 9-foot bronze statue was unveiled in Temple’s likeness at First Tennessee Park in Nashville.
“Even the Bible says a prophet is seldom honored in his hometown,” U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper said at a ceremony for the unveiling of the statue. “But here we are honoring perhaps one of the greatest coaches in all of history.”