Edith McGuire became the top sprinter of the 1960s, winning six Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) championships and an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, Japan, in 1964. McGuire was also the only American woman ever to hold three AAU titles at different times, in the 100 and 200 meters and the long jump. Born in Atlanta on June 3, 1944, to Alberta, a maid, and Clifford McGuire, a railroad worker, Edith was the youngest of four children. McGuire’s first experience with track and field was during her elementary school’s May Day celebration.
McGuire, who attended Archer High School in Atlanta, was coached by Marian Armstrong-Perkins of David T. Howard High School. McGuire proved to be an excellent student and athlete; she consistently made the honor roll, was on the cheerleading squad, played basketball, and participated in track. At the age of fifteen McGuire defeated the top prep-school sprinter in Atlanta, Fronnie Tucker. Armstrong-Perkins recommended McGuire for the summer clinic run by Ed Temple, coach of the phenomenal Tigerbelles at Tennessee State University in Nashville.
McGuire attended Coach Temple’s camp the summer before her senior year, which helped her earn a scholarship to TSU for fall 1961. As a high school senior, McGuire won AAU championships in both the 50-yard and 100-meter dashes. During the 1963 Pan-American Games in São Paulo, Brazil, McGuire took first place in the 100-meter dash and 400-meter relay, proving herself as a sprinter in the international arena.
McGuire’s career highlight came during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. McGuire was running against not only fellow Tigerbelle and Georgian Wyomia Tyus, considered one of the fastest sprinters in the world, but also Irena Kirszenstein and Ewa Klobukowska from Poland, who had recently beaten Tyus’s and Wilma Rudolph’s 100-meter time. In the 100 meters McGuire finished second, and Tyus took the gold medal. McGuire placed first in the 200 meters and set a new world record of twenty-three seconds. McGuire also won a silver medal as part of the 400-meter relay team with Tyus and two other Tigerbelles. With her wins in Tokyo, McGuire became the second African American woman to win three medals in the same Olympic Games.
In recognition of her Olympic achievements, McGuire was a top ten finalist for the Sullivan Award. Established by the AAU in 1930, the Sullivan Award is presented annually to the amateur athlete chosen as doing the most “to advance the cause of sportsmanship.” She also came in fourth in the national ballot for Sportswoman of the Year. Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen Jr. declared January 29, 1965, as Edith McGuire Day, and the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce awarded McGuire the Native Daughter Trophy.
McGuire graduated from TSU in 1966 with a degree in elementary education. She taught for nine years before she and her husband, Charles T. Duvall, settled in Detroit, Michigan. They later moved to Oakland, California, where they own three McDonald’s franchises. McGuire is involved in helping underprivileged children in Oakland as well as in Detroit.
She retired from track in 1966 and was subsequently honored by inductions into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame (1975), the Track and Field Hall of Fame (1979), and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (1980). In 1991 McGuire received the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Anniversary Silver Award in Nashville, Tennessee.