Martha Hudson, Olympic track and field gold medal winner and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) All-American, was born March 21, 1939, in Eastman. The oldest of three children of a truck driver and a housewife, Hudson began her athletic career as guard for her elementary school basketball team. She loved to race and often beat the neighborhood boys. At Twin City High School a physical education teacher noticed Hudson’s natural running ability and encouraged her to concentrate on track instead of basketball. Although her basketball team elected her captain, Hudson began to train and compete for track.
At the Tuskegee Relays in Alabama, Hudson, who was only 4 feet 10 inches tall, caught the eye of Edward Stanley Temple, a track coach at Tennessee State University in Nashville for forty-four years. At Temple’s invitation, Hudson took part in his summer track clinics from 1955 through 1957, outrunning some of the legendary coach’s Tigerbelles. In 1957 she graduated from high school as salutatorian of her class, and she accepted a scholarship to Tennessee State. While at TSU, Hudson (nicknamed “Pee Wee” by a teammate) won the national AAU 100-yard dash, set the 75-yard dash record, and came in second in the 50-yard dash. One of her biggest wins came during the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Italy, where she ran the first leg of the 400-meter relay against competitors who were all at least six inches taller than she. Hudson and the three other Tigerbelles on the American relay team won the gold medal.
Upon returning to the United States, Hudson was treated to a tremendous homecoming. In the TSU auditorium the mayor of Nashville and the governor of Tennessee welcomed the gold medalists. Joking about her stature, Hudson told the large crowd, “I doubt if ever so much depended on so little,” drawing cheers and laughter from the stands. Her hometown in Georgia also honored her by declaring a Martha Hudson Day. Hudson graduated from TSU in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
Hudson competed nationally and internationally for six years. She moved back to Georgia, where she married, raised a family, coached girls’ basketball, and taught for more than thirty years at Upson Lee North Elementary School in Thomaston. She was inducted into the Tennessee State University Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1986.