Skip to Content

Press Releases

Weber Announces Presidential Medal Freedom for Zaharias

Washington, D.C. – Thursday, January 07, 2021 U.S. Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX-14) announced that Babe Didrikson Zaharias has been awarded, posthumously, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In May of 2019, Representative Weber recommended Zaharias to receive the nation's highest civilian honor for her contributions to American athletics and society as a whole.  

Zacharias, a native of Beaumont, Texas, “truly broke the ‘glass ceiling’ of highly competitive sports across the board at a time when men dominated the industry,” said, Weber.  “She also overcame adversity in her life, struggling with cancer that she refused to let hold her back from doing what she loved.”

Zacharias is widely considered to be the world's greatest female athlete and among the best all-sports athletes of all time. She was a three-time All-American basketball player who led her team to an AAU national championship in 1931. The next year she competed in the AAU national track and field championship where she won five out of 10 events and tied in a sixth competition, before moving on to the 1932 Olympic Games. Zacharias went on to win Olympic gold medals in the 80-meter hurdles and in the javelin throw. She set world records in each and won a silver medal in the high jump.

After these successes, Zacharias began the golf career for which she is most famous. She was a founding member and longtime president of the LPGA. She racked up 41 professional women's golf wins, including 10 major LPGA championships. In 1938, she became the first woman to enter a PGA tournament. She went on to compete in five more. She remains the only woman to make the cut to advance to the final rounds of the PGA tournament.

Zacharias was born before women had the right to vote, and she became a trailblazer for women in sports and public life. Her leadership, athletic skill and bold personality on the public stage made her a key figure driving the LPGA's early success, expanding athletic opportunities available to women and young girls aspiring to compete in sports.

After being diagnosed with colon cancer in 1953, Zacharias became a passionate advocate for cancer research. Despite her doctor's proclamation that she would never golf again, 14 weeks after her tumorectomy, she returned to the course and won the US Women's Open by 12 strokes while using a colostomy bag. She became a spokesperson for the National Cancer Society, and she founded the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Fund to support cancer clinics and treatment centers. When she died in 1956 due to a recurrence of cancer, President Eisenhower saluted her "greatness and goodness."

“Babe Didrikson Zaharias has finally joined some of the most influential Americans in our nation's history by receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Her and her legacy will not only live on here in Beaumont, Texas but also among some of our nation’s greatest citizens.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is a highly esteemed award intended to recognize those who have made great contributions to the national interests of the United States, including through athletic, societal and philanthropic endeavors. Previous honorees include athletes like Jack Nicklaus, Billie Jean King, Babe Ruth, Alan Page and Roger Staubach.