Skip to main content

FunTimes Magazine

Jessie Owens

Jessie Owens was born James Cleveland Owens on September 12, 1913 in Oakville Alabama. He was the grandson of a slave. As a sickly child, he was still expected to help the family with field work to keep money in the house. When he was 9 his family moved to Cleveland Ohio where life was completely different for Owens.

In high school Jessie started to display his talents for sports. He set records in the long jump, 100 meter and 200 meter races. He was already gaining national recognition. After high school he attended Ohio State University. Here he gained the “Buckeye Bullet” nickname. In 1935 at the Big Ten Championship, he beat and set records in the 100 meter dash, long jump and 220 yard hurdles. It wasn’t until 25 years later that someone was able to beat his long jump record. He did all of this while recovering from a tailbone injury. He competed in over 42 events that year and won all of them. His performances won him a spot in the Olympics.

At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the USA took home 11 gold medals. Out of the 11 Owens won four of them. That same year Adolf Hitler had control over Germany and had plans to show the world Germany’s dominance. He was quickly humbled by Owens' outstanding performance.

When Owens returned home he retired from competing in the Olympics. For a while he used his talents for entertainment. He raced against cars and even traveled with the Harlem Globetrotters. A few years later he started a public relations and marketing company taking in a completely different direction that anyone would ever think.

Owens passed away from Lung cancer in 1980. He left behind a loving wife of over 40 years and three daughters, Gloria, Beverly and Marlene.