By Tia Lynn Ivey
Wilma Rudolph, an Olympic Gold Medal champion, was proclaimed the “fastest woman” in the world during the 1960s. But Rudolph did not only jump hurtles in the Olympics, but strived to overcome serious obstacles throughout her personal life. At the age of 4, she contracted infantile paralysis, caused by the polio virus, which rendered one of her legs twisted and deformed. She wore a brace and orthopedic shoes until she was nine-years-old. She trained vigorously to become record-breaking track champion. As an African-American woman and international athletic superstar, she also became a Civil Rights icon, inspiring people all over the world.
One of those people inspired by Rudolph’s story is a local Madison teenager, Morgan Robertson, who is also an up-and-coming softball and track star that battled Leukemia last year.
“I knew about Wilma Rudolph since I was a little girl. I knew that if she could beat polio, I could beat this,” said Robertson who is now in remission.
Madison Mayor Fred Perriman selected Morgan for this week’s Black History Month feature precisely because she is a young, determined woman who overcame dark times and is now headed for a bright future.
“You know, during Black History Month, it’s important we look to the past to learn from it, but we also have to remember that history is made everyday,” said Perriman. “Even though we have challenges in our lives, we have to continue to move forward and she has done that. She is active academically and athletically and she doesn’t allow challenges to hold her back. Too often we focus on the accomplishments of the elderly and miss out on what the youth has done, so we want to focus on them as well.”
After more than a year of intensive chemotherapy treatments, Morgan is back in the gym training for track and softball again. She hopes to run and play ball in college after she graduates from George Walton Academy in Monroe next year. “Wilma Rudolph ended up overcoming her health challenges and made it to the Olympics, so I am going to keep working to overcome mine,” said Morgan.
Before Morgan was diagnosed in 2015 with Leukemia, she enjoyed years of running track since primary school. Morgan still holds the record for the 100-meter hurtles at Morgan County Middle School and she became the Walton County Champion in the 100-meter hurtles in 2015.
Morgan was playing softball when signs of her illness first began to manifest. She became short of breath and experienced some chest pain. Tests revealed Morgan was suffering from a pleural effusion and a collapsed lung. Doctors soon discovered Leukemia in 33 percent of Morgan’s bone marrow. She was hospitalized for a month at an Atlanta children’s hospital before being released and undergoing weekly treatments.
“It felt like 10 years,” said Cedric Robertson II, Morgan’s brother. “It was hard to see her like that.”
“I was exhausted,” said Morgan. “I was dealing with all of that and still trying to keep my grades up. And I couldn’t wait to get back to training.”
Morgan’s family was stunned and encouraged by Morgan’s attitude as she faced this dire health crisis.
“You know, she has always been the spunky and feisty one out of my four children,” said Karen Robertson, Morgan’s mother. “She has the spirit of the fighter and we are just so very proud of all she has done and really of just who she is.”
According to Karen, Morgan’s father, Cedric Robertson, instilled in all their children the drive to persevere through difficulty.
“You know, as a young black family trying to do well and make it and survive, my husband has always shared his experience facing challenges while trying to be a successful businessman,” said Karen. “He always told the kids that you don’t let the challenges stop you, you gotta find the wheel inside of you and keep moving forward.”
That message took root in Morgan, who faced her Leukemia with bravery, grace and even humor. But most of all, she summoned a great deal of determination to defeat the cancer and get back to her life’s goals.
“I was going to beat it,” said Morgan. “I knew I had to.”
Morgan is back to training for softball and track and is considering studying at Valdosta State University, Georgia Southern University, or North Georgia State University. She is planning on studying early childhood education, citing her knack for working with small children.
“They love me and I love them,” said Morgan. “I get them and I figure since I can handle kids I should make a career out of it.”
Morgan hopes that her peers and people in the community can learn from her struggle with cancer and apply it to their own lives. “No matter what life gives you, you have to make the best out of it,” said Morgan.
Morgan is enjoying life in Madison, studying at Georgia Walton Academy and spending time with her family: Cedric and Karen Robertson, her parents, and her siblings, Cedric Robertson II, 17, Seth Robertson, 15, and Tyler Love, 22.
“We are just so grateful to have Morgan with us all and we couldn’t have gotten through any of it without the love and support of our friends, family, community, church and George Walton Academy family,” said Karen Robertson.