Mildrette Netter White looks back at winning gold at the 1968 Summer Olympics
Every four years, the world’s most talented athletes meet up to compete for gold medals at the Olympic games. During the 1960s, one of Alcorn State University’s own not only competed in the Olympics, but she was dominate among her competitors.
Mildrette Netter White, a 1972 graduate of Alcorn, snagged the gold medal in the 4X100 meter relay in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. She, along with her teammates Barbara Ferrell, Margaret Bailes and Wyomia Tyus, set a world record with a time of 42.88. With the 2016 Olympics in Rio starting today (Friday, Aug. 5), White reflects on her experience and how it was a signature moment in her life.
“Being a part of the Olympic games was one of the most exciting experiences of my life,” said White. “I felt proud of being able to bring a gold medal back home to Mississippi.”
Had it not been for Alcorn, White probably would have missed her chance to compete in the event. Initially, she wanted to attend Tennessee State University because it was the closest to Mississippi that had a women’s track program. Her plans were detoured after her scholarship request was rejected due to her height and Mississippi roots. No other school in Mississippi had women’s track programs at the time, so she decided to enroll at Alcorn and focus on her education. Her decision worked out better than she imagined.
“I’m truly grateful to Alcorn for taking a chance on me and providing me with the opportunity to excel in track. When I went to Alcorn, my main goal was to get my education. I am so thankful for the men’s track coach Grant Dungee because he allowed me to travel to events where both men and women competed. Because of Coach Dungee, I had the opportunity to make the Olympic team. So I owe a lot to Alcorn.”
Being from Mississippi was a topic of conversation among White and other competitors in the event. People were surprised to see someone from the state on such a grand stage. White sees her representation of the state at the Olympics as proof that hard work will lead to major accomplishments.
“Because I came from a small town, people didn’t expect me to make it to the Olympics. It made me feel proud to represent my community and Mississippi in the Olympics on that level. I always tell young people that my representation proves that it doesn’t matter where you come from, if you utilize your God given talent, then you can be successful.”
Preparing for the Olympics while staying focused in school took lots of focus and hard work. White remembers the joy she felt once her team captured the gold medal.
“As we stood there and received our gold medals while the national anthem was playing, all of us felt an overwhelming sense of patriotism. It felt great to stand there and represent our country. Although it took lots of work, it was very rewarding.”
White’s accomplishments in women’s track earned her a ton of accolades. In 2013, she was inducted into the Clarksdale/Coahoma Sports Hall of Fame; the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2003; the Bob Hayes Track Hall of Fame in 2001; the Rosedale-West Bolivar High School Hall of Fame in 1998; the Alcorn Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996; the SWAC Hall of Fame in 1995; and the Alcorn Hall of Honors in 1992.
Now retired, she, along with her husband and fellow Alcornite, Willie White ’72, spend their time supporting the Alcorn track and field teams. They are also two of the Montgomery-Carroll-Grenada County Alcorn Alumni Chapter’s biggest supporters.