Thank you, Mr. John Wallace, of Leesburg, for your article titled “Coachman deserves honor from the city,” published in The Albany Herald on July 19. I wholeheartedly agree with you that Albany could have and should have done a better job of recognizing and honoring our world-renowned legend, Alice Coachman Davis.
As the first black American female in the world to win a gold medal in the 1948 Olympics, she was showered with accolades and recognition; President Harry Truman congratulated her at the White House, and the King of England met with her and congratulated her. Later, as an affirmation to her accomplishments, a local neighborhood and school were named in her honor. From around the world Mrs. Coachman Davis received tributes and acclaim, with the notable exception of her hometown, Albany.
Fast-forward to the time of her death. The city had an opportunity to give her the honor that her legacy of her life had earned, and yet Albany missed the opportunity. Her passing was noted on an international level with articles in London, where she won her gold medal; on national television, with media attention on the major networks, and the lowering of flags in the state of Alabama, where Ms. Coachman Davis attended Tuskegee University. Yet, with the exception of coverage by the local media, she was an unsung hometown hero!
There was no Alice Coachman Day proclamations, no flags lowered in her memory, no billboards bidding farewell to a legend, and no signage at the institutions of higher learning. However, we have seen and applauded these types of displays numerous times over the years as we have welcomed home returning musicians and other celebrities. How much more fitting would it have been to commemorate the passing of a native Albanian who impacted Olympic and sports history?
With all the negative headlines we get daily, it would have been a moment to reflect collectively, as a city, on the positive light Ms. Coachman Davis cast around the world.