Speeches and Floor Statements

Theresa A. Manuel

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Washington, December 6, 2016 | comments

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the life of an extraordinary Tampa resident and Olympian, Theresa A. Manuel. While Ms. Manuel competed internationally in track and field, her undying commitment to students at home as a teacher and coach may have had an even greater impact on the hearts of my neighbors across the Tampa Bay area. Despite growing up during segregation, Theresa Manuel persevered through adversity to become the first African-American woman from Florida to compete in the Olympic Games. Ms. Manuel was born in 1926 in Port Tampa City, Florida. As a young woman, she was a star basketball player at Middleton High School in Tampa. Ms. Manuel had such a love for basketball that she would often convince neighbors to set up lamps at night so she and her teammates could practice on the outdoor court near Middleton High. She attended the Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University in Alabama, where she was affectionately nicknamed ‘‘Trick Shot’’ for her skill in basketball and in addition won multiple championships for the Tuskegee Track and Field team. In the summer before her senior year, Ms. Manuel made history by competing as a member of the U.S. Track and Field team at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. She competed in the Olympics at a time when sports were not widely considered open to women, let alone black women. She represented her country with dignity and grace, and upon returning home she and her team proudly celebrated their success with President Harry Truman at the White House. After graduating from Tuskegee, Ms. Manuel moved back to Tampa to care for her ailing mother and began her 38 year career as a decorated teacher and coach. She was a legendary coach in Tampa. She led her teams to multiple state championships and was named the best coach in the Hillsborough County in 1975, and subsequently the best in the state of Florida in 1976. Ms. Manuel continued to garner countless honors and awards throughout her distinguished lifetime. Some of those honors include being inducted into the Tuskegee Institute Hall of Fame and City of Tampa Hall of Fame and being named one of the ‘‘100 Distinguished Women of Hillsborough County.’’ Ms. Manuel’s importance to the AfricanAmerican community in Florida and indeed all Floridians transcends even her many accomplishments in sport. Most importantly, she will always be remembered as a great leader and giant matriarchal figure to the thousands of students whose lives she touched. She was a champion in all facets of life. On November 21st, 2016, Ms. Manuel passed away at the age of 90 in Tampa, Florida. Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the citizens of the Tampa Bay community, I am proud to honor Ms. Theresa A. Manuel for her lifelong service and inspirational life.

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