Antique Vintage 04

Ms. Mabel Thornton

December 11, 1928 ~ September 10, 2023 (age 94) 94 Years Old


Mabel Walker Thornton, who figuratively sprinted from Alabama to London for the 1948 Summer Olympics, died on Sunday at age 94 in Forsyth, Georgia. Thornton attended Camden Academy and then competed for Tuskegee Institute after being “discovered” during an invitational track and field meet held at the college and won by her school team. While competing as Mabel Walker, she won the women’s 100-meter dash at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials with a time of 12.3 seconds on July 12, 1948, in Providence, Rhode Island. “I won the 100-yard dash at the trials, but I don’t even remember breaking the tape,’’ Thornton told the Mobile Press-Register in 1994. “It was like I was out of contact with this world. Everyone poured out of the stadium. They all knew I had won, but I didn’t realize it yet. I felt like I needed to pinch myself. It took a few days for it all to sink in.’’

Thornton was one of the 12 members of the U.S. women’s track and field team for the 1948 London Games. The team included former Tuskegee athlete Alice Coachman, who became the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal when she captured first place in the high jump. In addition to competing in the 100 meters, Thornton also ran a leg for the U.S. entry in the women’s 4-by-400-meter relay at the Games of the XIV Olympiad.

“It was amazing,” Thornton told the Mobile Press-Register in 2010, when she was inducted into the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame. “The only thing I knew about the Olympics was what we had studied about the Greeks. It was awesome to me, growing up in Wilcox County and in one year to get to this. I didn’t understand how I got that great opportunity except my coach had great foresight. She kept saying, ‘You can do it.’ … “I was just thrilled. I can still talk for days about it. The fellowship you create and the friendships with people of all different cultures was amazing. The spirit of the Olympics was so great. You stop and think, ‘I am representing my country.’”

After her athletic career, Thornton lived for many years in Mobile and was a 2007 inductee into the Prichard Sports and Leadership Hall of Fame. From 1973 through 1987, she became a fixture while managing Widemere’s Old Dutch Ice Cream Shoppe on Old Shell Road in Mobile.

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September 20, 2023

10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Mt. Zion Baptist Church (Mobile, AL)
1012 Adams Street
Mobile, AL 36503

Celebration of Life
September 20, 2023

12:00 PM
Mt. Zion Baptist Church (Mobile, AL)
1012 Adams Street
Mobile, AL 36503

Graveside Service
September 21, 2023

1:00 PM
Walker Estate
674 Collins Moton Road
Camden, AL 36726


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