"Today we celebrate the birth of my 86-year-old mother-in-law Elizabeth Williams who was born on October 9th, 1928 along with the anniversary of the Australian sprinter, Peter Norman who was buried on the 9th October, 2006 aged 64. Although these two remarkable people were never destined to meet, both lived their lives campaigning for the civil rights of others; Elizabeth as a solicitor of the courts and Peter as an Olympic athlete and 200-metres Australian record holder.
In the Olympic games of 1968 in Mexico City, a political stand was symbolically made by the gold, silver and bronze 200-metre medalists who shared the winner's podium.The gold and bronze medalists were the black Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos respectively and the silver medalist was the white Australian sprinter, Peter Norman. The 1960s was a time of great civil unrest and political protest both in America and also in Australia. All of the athletes attending the Olympic games in Mexico were warned against making any political protests.
However Smith, Carlos and Norman ignored such treats and at an appropriate moment in the medal ceremony on the podium, Smith and Carlos silently waved a black-gloved fist of salute in the air while Peter Norman publicly displayed his solidarity with their cause by wearing an 'Olympic Project for Human Rights' badge.
Following their protest all three athletes were suspended from their National teams and were sent home to face the the scorn and vilification of their country. While in more enlightened times following the progress of the civil rights movement in America, both Smith and Carlos were recognised as true sporting heroes and had statues erected in their image, back in Australia Peter Norman was to remain vilified and shunned by his government, athletic bodies and populace alike for the remainder of his life.
It was to be during the the New Millennium in 2012 before Peter Norman received a Parliamentary apology. He had not been invited by his country to to be involved in any shape or form with the 2000 Summer Olympics held in Sydney. He nevertheless became part of the event after being invited by the United States when they heard that his own country had failed to do so. On 17 October 2003 at San Joser State University, a statue was unveiled commemorating the 1968 Olympic protest; and while Peter Norman was not included as part of the statue itself (Revealing Smith and Carlos on their poidium only), Norman's empty podium spot was intended for others viewing the statue to "take a stand'. Thus America recognised his contribution to the cause of civil rights before his own country of Australia ever did.
In August 2012, the federal parliament debated a motion to provide an apology to Peter Norman.. On 11 October 2012 the Australian Parliament passed the wording of an official apology that read:
“(15) PETER NORMAN: The order of the day having been read for the resumption of the debate on the motion of Dr Leigh— That this House:
(1) recognises the extraordinary athletic achievements of the late Peter Norman, who won the silver medal in the 200 metres sprint running event at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, in a time of 20.06seconds, which still stands as the Australian record;
(2) acknowledges the bravery of Peter Norman in donning an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium, in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the ‘black power’ salute;
(3) apologises to Peter Norman for the wrong done by Australia in failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics, despite repeatedly qualifying; and
(4) belatedly recognises the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality.........."
When the stars were aligned for October 9th in the galaxy, little did Mum Williams know that the horiscope of the heavens would forever entwine her efforts today with the famous Peter Norman of the past in the 200-metre event.
Today, Mum Williams, who lives in an old folk's home nearby is visited daily by my wife (her daughter Sheila). Although now stricken with painful arthritis and only able to mobilise herself with the aid of a walking frame, she is neverless the only resident in the home to take a 200-metre daily walk. She may hold the world record for the slowest 200 metres ever walked, but she holds it alongside Peter Norman for the fastest Australian 200 metres ever run! Happy birthday Mum Williams. RIP Peter Norman." October 9th 2014.