Marjorie Jackson-Nelson

Marjorie Jackson-Nelson AC CVO MBE DStJ (13 September 1931) is a former Governor of South Australia and a former Australian athlete. She finished her sporting career with two Olympic and seven Commonwealth Games Gold Medals, six individual world records[1] and every Australian State and National title she contested from 1950–1954.[3]

Marjorie Jackson-Nelson
Marjorie Jackson-Nelson in 2007
33rd Governor of South Australia
In office
3 November 2001  8 August 2007
MonarchElizabeth II
PremierRob Kerin (2001–02)
Mike Rann (2002–07)
Preceded bySir Eric Neal
Succeeded byKevin Scarce
Personal details
Born (1931-09-13) 13 September 1931
Coffs Harbour, New South Wales
SpousePeter Nelson (1953–77; his death)
Sports career
Jackson at a club meeting in Sydney on 12 January 1952
Height1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight66 kg (146 lb)
Sports achievements and titles
Personal best(s)100 m – 11.4 (1952)
200 m – 23.59 (1952)[1][2]


Jackson was born in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, and first gained fame when she defeated reigning Olympic 100 and 200 metres champion Fanny Blankers-Koen a number of times in 1949, thus earning the nickname "the Lithgow Flash", after the New South Wales town of Lithgow where she lived and had grown up.[4]

Having won four titles at the 1950 British Empire Games, Jackson came as a favourite to the Helsinki 1952 Summer Olympics. She won both the 100 m, in a then-world-record-equalling time of 11.5, and the 200 m, winning the first Olympic athletics track titles for Australia since Edwin Flack in 1896. Having more strong runners in the team (consisting of Shirley Strickland, Winsome Crisps and Verna Johnston in addition to Jackson), the Australian 4 × 100 m relay team was also a favourite for the gold, but a faulty exchange[5] meant Jackson's chances for third gold medal were gone. The Americans, anchored by Catherine Hardy (later Lavender), won in an upset, setting a new world record time of 45.9 seconds.[1] Later in 1952, Jackson lowered the 100 m world record time to 11.4, running this new record in a meet at Gifu, Japan on 4 October 1952.[2]

In 1953 Jackson married Olympic cyclist Peter Nelson.[1] After his death from leukaemia in 1977, she launched the Peter Nelson Leukaemia Research Fellowship. Now named Jackson-Nelson, she was one of the eight flag-bearers of the Olympic Flag at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. She also has a road named in honour of her at the Sydney Olympic Park, beside the Sydney Superdome (now Qudos Bank Arena).


In late 2001, Jackson-Nelson was appointed Governor of South Australia; she held the post until 31 July 2007.[1] On 15 March 2006, Jackson-Nelson was one of the final four runners who carried the Queen's Baton around the MCG stadium during the 2006 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony in Melbourne. On 6 June 2007, shortly before the end of her tenure, it was announced that the planned replacement for the Royal Adelaide Hospital would be named the "Marjorie Jackson-Nelson Hospital". On 18 February 2009, amidst criticism of the new hospital development, Jackson-Nelson asked that her name not be used.[6]


She is also a Dame of the Order of St John of Jerusalem and a Freeman of the City of London. In 1993, the State Transit Authority of New South Wales named a Sydney RiverCat ferry after Jackson-Nelson.


  1. Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Marjorie Jackson". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 17 April 2020.
  2. "Marjorie Jackson (née Nelson)".
  3. "Olympic Order for Lithgow Flash". The Canberra Times. 16 July 2007. p. 4.
  4. Jackson Nelson, Marjorie (31 May 2004). "GNT History". George Negus Tonight (transcript). Interviewed by George Negus. ABC1. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  5. "AUSTRALIA LOSES WOMEN'S RELAY AS BATON FALLS". Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). 28 July 1952. p. 1. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  6. 'Marj' ditched: new hospital to remain Royal Adelaide, ABC News, 18 Feb 2009
  7. It's an Honour – Member of the Order of the British Empire
  8. "Marjorie Jackson Nelson". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  9. It's an Honour – Companion of the Order of Australia
  10. It's an Honour – Commander of the Royal Victorian Order


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