Barbara Jones Slater was 15 years old when Jesse Owens visited the housing project in Chicago where she lived. He inspired her to do nothing less than fulfill her dreams, and she did just that, graduating from Tennessee State University with a BS degree in Health and Physical Education. She also has a Master’s degree in Physical Education from Georgia State University.
At the age of 15 years and 123 days, Slater became the youngest female of any nation to have won an Olympic gold medal in track and field, and she still holds that distinction. In the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, she and her teammates captured the gold medal, breaking the world record in the 4 x 100 relay.
In the 1955, Pan American Games, she struck gold again, winning the gold in the 100m and breaking the world record. Later in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, she was a member of the TSU Tigerbelles 4 x 100 winning relay team. Barbara remembers the lessons she was taught by her parents, and tries to instill them in the youth she works with today.
Her mother involved both Barbara and her brother in the Girl and Boy Scouts, stressing doing good for the community, and learning at home what it means to get along with other people to pursue your dreams. Her father was a hard worker, who instilled in his children the values of precision, skill and the perfectionist attitude. Her life’s work has been in education, and although she is now retired, Barbara is the current Spokesperson for Double Dutch under the US Department of Health and Human Services.
She firmly believes that our children are out greatest fortune, and she put it best when she said, “We must give them all they need to grow and reach their fullest potential, and it is in this capacity that I find my life rewarding and challenging, as I speak to stress the importance of consistent guidelines, structure and self-control. All themes in the success of education, I have learned as an Olympian.”
In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Champions Medal on Fitness; and in 2010, she was awarded President Barack Obama’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council on Health & Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.
Barbara Slater currently lives in Stone Mountain, GA. She spends her time speaking with children sharing her knowledge and experiences and encouraging them to dream big.