NPT to air Ray Charles, Ed Temple & the Tigerbelles specials this month

Nashville Public Television will air two special programs of local interest during the month of August: An Opry Salute to Ray Charles premieres Thursday, Aug. 15, at 8 p.m.; and Mr. Temple and the Tigerbelles airs Monday, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m.

NPT is the national presenting station for An Opry Salute to Ray Charles, a celebration of the songs and influence of the iconic recording artist. Hosted by Grand Ole Opry member Darius Rucker, the performance was recorded at the Opry House in the fall of 2018 and features unique collaborations and performances of Charles’ music. Guests include Boyz II Men, Cam, Brett Eldredge, Leela James, Jessie Key, Ronnie Milsap, Lukas Nelson, LeAnn Rimes, Allen Stone, Travis Tritt, Charlie Wilson, Trisha Yearwood and Chris Young.

An Opry Salute to Ray Charles will be available to public television stations across the country in September when Ken Burns’ Country Music documentary series airs on PBS stations nationwide.

Mr. Temple and the Tigerbelles is about the symbiotic relationship between legendary Tennessee State University track and field coach Ed Temple and his equally storied athletes. Under Temple’s leadership, the Tigerbelles team produced 40 Olympians who won 23 medals, 16 of them gold, during the Jim Crow era. This elite group not only excelled in sports, 100 percent of them graduated, many going on to receive advanced degrees. As the film shows, Temple’s program lives on in a new generation of athletes coached by Tigerbelle Olympic gold medalist Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice.

The Aug. 19 broadcast of Mr. Temple and the Tigerbelles will be a live pledge event with filmmaker Tom Neff and TSU track and field coach Cheeseborough-Guice appearing on-air from NPT’s studio. TSU and MTSU supporters will staff the phone bank during this pledge event.

“This documentary is a love letter to Nashville,” said Neff, a professor in Media Arts at MTSU. “The Tigerbelles film is uniquely Nashvillian; it was created, financed, and produced entirely by Nashvillians and Nashville organizations in celebration of an unknown Nashville story.”

“Coach Temple was given $300 and two station wagons and told to go compete against the world,” retired Tennessean columnist Dwight Lewis says in the documentary. Temple is now immortalized with a statue next to the Nashville Sounds First Tennessee Park.

The Tigerbelles burst onto the scene at the 1956 Summer Games in Melbourne, Australia, when they won several bronze medals. They continued that domination at the 1960 Rome Games where Wilma Rudolph became the first American to win three gold medals at a single Olympics. The 1960 gold medal Olympic team included Barbara Jones Slater (the youngest woman to win gold in track and field), Lucinda Williams Adams, Martha Hudson Pennyman, and Wilma Rudolph. Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) won gold as light heavyweight. They all remained good friends.

Other medal-winning Tigerbelles include: Mae Faggs (called the Mother of the Tigerbelles), Madeline Manning Mims, Edith McGuire, Wyomia Tyus (the first male or female to win back-to-back gold in consecutive 100-meter Olympic events), Martha Hudson, Willye White, Kathy McMillan, Margaret Matthews Wilburn, Isabelle Daniels, and Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice, who still holds the Olympic trial record in the 400-meter race.

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