Celebrate Olympic Gold Medalist, Jesse OwensSep 12, 2021 09:30AM ● By Kassidy Garland
James Cleveland Owens was born on September 12, 1913, in Oakville, AL. His parents were the ancestors of enslaved people and his father was a sharecropper. From a young age, Owens went by the nickname, J.C. A sickly child, Owens was still expected to help his family put food on the table.
When he was 9 years old, his family moved to Cleveland, OH, which was a change in pace. It was in Cleveland that he would earn his lifelong nickname, Jesse, when his teacher misunderstood his thick southern drawl when he said J.C.
During his time at East Technical High School, Jesse quickly became a nationally recognized sprinter, where he set records in the 100 and 200-yard dashes and the long jump. After graduating high school, Jesse Owens continued to show his exceptional athleticism at Ohio State University. It was here that would earn the nickname “Buckeye Bullet”. Although he suffered a serious tailbone injury, Jesse pushed forward and set a number of new records, some of which would stand for 25 years. In one year, Owens competed in 42 events, winning them all.
In 1936, Jesse Owens, competed in the Berlin Olympic Games, much to the dismay of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. The United States won 11 Gold medals, with six of them being won by Black athletes. Jesse Owens won the majority of the United States’ medals with a total of 4, infuriating Adolf Hitler to the point of storming out of the stadium and ruining his plan of using the Olympics to prove his idea of Aryan superiority.
When returning home from the Olympics, he was not met with the congratulations that one sees today. President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not meet with the Gold medal-winning athlete, which was and still is customary. He immediately stepped back into segregation and racism. He wasn’t even properly recognized until receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976 by President Gerald Ford.
After retiring from amateur athletics, Owens began a professional athletic career, racing against cars and horses. He also played with the Harlem Globetrotters for a short time. He eventually started a business in public relations and marketing. Although he maintained a successful career as an athlete, Owens smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, and eventually, at the age of 66, he died of lung cancer, leaving his wife of 48 years, Ruth, and three daughters behind.
In 2016, with the consultation of his daughters, the movie Race portrayed Owen’s career from the early beginning to the 1936 Olympics. The movie starred Stephen James and Jason Sudeikis.
Kassidy Garland has had a great appreciation for reading and writing since she was young. She graduated from West Chester University in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English & Women and Gender Studies. With a concentration in creative writing, Kassidy has 5 years of experience writing blogs, articles, and for social media. Kassidy is also pursuing a Master’s degree in IT with a concentration in Web Development. Based out of Philadelphia, Kassidy loves to write about a number of topics and looks forward to sharing her passion with those at FunTimes Magazine.
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