Index Hall of Fame

Betty Robinson Was
United States' First
Girl Olympic Champ

By GEORGE SCHUMANN

  The largest parade and celebration ever accorded an individual in the Greater Roseland area was held Tuesday, Aug. 28, 1928, for Elizabeth (Betty) Robinson.
   This parade and celebration served as a homecoming reception for the 16-year-old Riverdale girl who won the 100-meter dash in the 1928 Olympic games at Amsterdam, Holland, in the Netherlands, to become the United States' first woman Olympic champion.  Betty Robinson, who is now recognized as the all-time outstanding woman athlete of the city of Chicago and the state

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arrival at Union station on the Broadway Limited train, said of the honors given her by the "home folks" of the Greater Roseland area.   Betty Robinson of Illinois, is the first Greater Roseland area athlete figure to enter the newly created CALUMET INDEX Sports Hall of Fame.  Last year, she was voted into the national Helm Hall of Fame as the outstanding woman athlete of Illinois.
   The parade formed at 5:30 p.m. that Tuesday at the Lincoln Ave. school in Dolton and following Betty's review of the parade the vast procession headed toward the twin village of Riverdale at 7:30 p.m.
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   WITH BETTY RIDING in state with her proud parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Robinson, the parade proceeded on Lincoln Ave., over Leyden Ave. to 137th St., west to Wabash Ave, south on Wabash Ave. past the Riverdale village hall to 138th St., west on 138th St. past the Robinson home at 3 E. 138th St., to Riverdale's highlawn section, where it moved south on LaSalle St. to 139th St., south on School St. to 144th St., through Riverdale's Ivanhoe section and west on 144th St. to Halsted St.
   The procession then moved north on Halsted St. to 111th St., east on 111th St. to Michigan Ave., south to 127th St., then to Indiana Ave., through the north side of Riverdale to 137th St. to Riverdale park.
   Flags, bunting, shields and thousands of spectators decked the streets of Dolton, Riverdale, West Pullman, and Roseland during the triumphal parade. Shouts of "Our Betty" greeted the pretty, bright-eyed blonde girl dressed in white along the route.
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  The seemingly unending line of cars surrounded Riverdale park, where a large bandstand had been erected for the occasion.  Betty was escorted into the park by an American Legion color guard.
   Following the playing of the national anthem, Presidents John Zornow of Riverdale and John Harms Jr. of Dolton welcomed the Olympic champion with appropriated speeches. She was presented with various gifts, among them a diamond ring from her fellow townspeople.
   The 30-piece Pullman band under the direction of William Schnell, uncle of Hans, present INDEX Man-About-Town columnist, provided the music for the evening's festivities.
   Over 45,000 persons jammed Amsterdam's new Olympic stadium for the opening parade of athletes of 47 nations Saturday afternoon, July 28. Some of the star athletes besides Betty in the parade were Paavo Nurmi, Finland's great distance runner; Frank Wykoff and Charlie Paddock, United State dash men, and a trio of Chicagoans, swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, distance runner Joie Ray, and diver Jane Fauntz, now the wife of Eggs Manske, former Northwestern university and Chicago Bear football star.
   Betty, in the fourth meet of her life and who started competing in track just four months before, won her initial Olympic heats in the 100-meter dash and gained one of the six finals berths by defeating Myrtle Cook, the Canadian champion who was favored to win the title, in the semi-finals with a time of 12.4 seconds.
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   Her victory in the semi-finals immediately marked her as the star of the American women's track team. Canada qualified three for the 100-meter dash finals, and Germany two while Betty was the only American.
   In the finals Tuesday, July 31, Betty not only demonstrated her speed, but she passed the nerve test of waiting for the starter's gun like a veteran with years of experience. The tension and suspense was more difficult than actual competition.
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INDEX will hour more athletic greats
  
Betty Robinson, the former Riverdale girl who became the United States' first woman Olympic champion and who has been selected as the all-time outstanding woman athlete of Chicago and Illinois, has the honor of being the first Greater Roseland area athletic figure to enter the newly created CALUMET INDEX Sports Hall of Fame.
   A second area athletic great will be honored in June, a third in August, a fourth in October, and a fifth in December with others to be selected every two months in subsequent years.

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August 16, 2000
Updated:
December 19, 2013

Information provided by the Riverdale Historical Society