Audrey Patterson-TylerTrack & Field Athlete/Coach, 1940-96
Audrey (Mickey) Patterson-Tyler was the United States' first black woman to win an Olympic medal; she won a bronze medal in the 200-meter dash at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. Born in New Orleans, Patterson-Tyler attended Danneel Elementary School and Gilbert Academy (now De La Salle High School) before earning a scholarship to Tennessee State University in Nashville. She graduated from Southern University in Baton Rouge.
Unbeaten as a prep and college competitor, she was a star in the 100- and 200-meter races and 400-meter relay and a national and international champion in the two individual events. She won the 200-meter race at the U.S. Olympic trials in 1948, making her one of nine black American female track athletes to compete at the London Games.
She was 22 when she won her Olympic medal, covering the 200 meters in 25.2 seconds, the same time as Shirley Strickland of Australia. It took officials 45 minutes to decide that Miss Patterson would get the bronze medal; Strickland was placed fourth. Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands, considered the greatest female Olympian of her time, won the race, earning her third gold medal of the 1948 games.
She was named Woman Athlete of the Year in 1949 by the Amateur Athletic Union.
She later became a teacher in Lutcher and moved in 1964 to San Diego, where she taught physical education in the public schools until 1980.
In 1965, she founded "Mickey's Missiles," a track club for girls 6 to 18. Boys joined the group several years later. It grew from three members its first year to more than 125 and produced Olympic sprinters Jackie Thompson, who competed in the 200-meter race in 1972, and Dennis Mitchell, who ran in the 100-meter dash in 1988, 1992 and 1996.
Besides developing track and field talent, Mrs. Patterson-Tyler often said one of her goals was to promote good harmony among racial groups in a setting that mixed competition and camaraderie. She coached more than 5,000 young people and had, in her words, "an impeccable record for developing athletes, physically, mentally and spiritually."
She managed the U.S. women's track team that toured the Soviet Union and Germany in 1969 and coached the team that competed against a Russian squad in Texas in 1974. In 1982, she founded the Martin Luther King Freedom Run in San Diego.
She was a past first vice president of the Amateur Athletic Union, a director of the Pacific Southwest Association and the YMCA, a governor of the Western District of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women, and a member of the Urban League, NAACP and 1984 Olympic Spirit Team.
She received the San Diego Woman of the Year and Press Club Headliner awards. She is also a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
She died in 1996 at the age of 69.
Source: USGW Archives/Times-Picayune