Olympic athletes, trailblazers, legendary champions, native daughters, overcomers, gamechangers. All fitting titles for Pat Head Summitt and Wilma Rudolph, who stand in bronze anchoring Liberty Park in their Clarksville, Tenn. hometown.
Pat Head Summitt is a name every basketball fan knows well. The Clarksville native was the fiercest of competitors who served for 38 seasons with the University of Tennessee Lady Vols. While there, she garnered a record 1,098 wins and 8 national championships.
“Though her famous ‘stare’ may be missing, our sculpture hopes to embody her passion and fire,” said sculptor Brett Grill. “She was a rare talent, quickly ascending to the highest reaches of her field, which she dominated throughout her career.”
In 1976, Summitt won a silver medal in the Summer Olympic Games, the first year that women would play Olympic basketball. In 1984, she coached the U.S. women’s team and earned the gold in Los Angeles, making her the first U.S. Olympian to both win a medal of her own and coach a medal-winning team.
Twenty years earlier, Clarksvillian Wilma Rudolph was the youngest member of the 1956 U.S. track and field team. Competing in Melbourne, Australia at age 16, Rudolph earned a bronze in the women’s 400-meter relay.
During the 1960 Rome Olympics, Rudolph competed in the 100- and 200-meter races and the 400-meter relay where she received gold medals in all three events, becoming the first woman from the U.S. to receive three gold medals in a single Olympics.
Rudolph stands bronzed outside of her namesake building, the Wilma Rudolph Event Center, at the Liberty Park entrance. Created by local sculptor Howard Brown, the statue commemorates Rudolph doing what she is best known for, crossing the finish line first.
“Clarksville has the unique distinction of being the birthplace of not just one, but two giants of women’s sports in the 20th century,” Mayor Kim McMillan said. “Pat Summitt and Wilma Rudolph were trailblazers, and it’s wonderful to honor their legacies and share their stories for generations to come.”