Hudson, Martha (1939—)

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Hudson, Martha (1939—)

African-American track star who won a gold medal in the 4x100-meter relay in the 1960 Rome Olympics. Name variations: (nickname) Peewee Hudson. Born in Eastman, Georgia, on March 21, 1939; oldest of three children of a truck driver and a housewife; attended Tennessee State University, becoming a member of the famous Tigerbelles.

In 1960, at 4'10", Martha "Peewee" Hudson was the shortest athlete to participate in Olympic competition. Though many doubted her ability to succeed in athletics, she would prove them wrong time and again. In her mind, Hudson was 6' tall. She was born and grew up in Eastman, Georgia, tucked away in the piney woods. On the playground, she often raced against the boys, generally besting them. When she entered Twin City High School, she took up basketball, and her prowess as a guard soon got her elected team captain. Hudson circled the track as well. When the coach from Tennessee State University saw her run in the Tuskegee Relays, he recognized a superior athlete and offered her a scholarship. After graduating as salutatorian of her class in 1957, Hudson attended Tennessee State.

At the time, the university's Tigerbelles had only recently become a name to be reckoned with in the track world. Their fame began in 1955 when Tennessee replaced Tuskegee as national champion at the national outdoor AAU meet in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Mae Faggs, Wilma Rudolph, and Wyomia Tyus were Tigerbelles, a team which would produce some of America's finest runners over the years. When Hudson first arrived on campus, Mae Faggs dubbed her "Peewee," and the nickname stuck. "My big ambition was to beat Mae just once," said Hudson, "but I never did." Even so, the petite runner soon became well known for her abilities. On a basketball as well as track scholarship, she succeeded in both sports. It was on the track, however, that she established her reputation. In 1959, she earned a position on the AAU All-American women's track and field team. She won the indoor 100-yards the same year.

When the 1960 Olympics were held in Rome, four Tigerbelles comprised the U.S. 4x100-meter team—Martha Hudson, Lucinda Williams, Barbara Jones , and Wilma Rudolph. They were running against the fastest women from the Soviet Union, Panama, Australia, and Poland. With Hudson running the first leg, the Tigerbelles took the gold with a time of 44.5, in part because Hudson's short legs (everyone in the race was at least six inches taller) covered 30 feet every second. As Hudson later cracked, "I doubt if ever so much depended on so little."

After graduating from Tennessee State in 1962, Hudson moved to Thomaston, Georgia, where she became an elementary schoolteacher, coached girls' track and basketball, and still shot baskets.


Davis, Michael D. Black American Women in Olympic Track and Field. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1992.

Page, James A. Black Olympian Medalists. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1991.

Wallechinsky, David. The Complete Book of the Olympics. NY: Viking, 1988.

Karin Loewen Haag , Athens, Georgia