Jesse Owens

Olympian / Runner
Date Of Birth:
12 September 1913
Date Of Death:
31 March 1980
Place Of Birth:
Oakville, Alabama
Best Known As:
The black sprinter who won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics

Name at birth: James Cleveland Owens

Jesse Owens is remembered for one stunning week in 1936, when he won four track and field gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Berlin. Jesse Owens was born in Alabama and moved to Cleveland with his family as a boy. While still in high school, he tied the world record of 9.4 seconds in the 100-yard dash. That earned him a spot at Ohio State University, where as the "Buckeye Bullet" he set more world records. His official site points out that "In his junior year at Ohio State, Owens competed in 42 events and won them all, including four in the Big Ten Championships, four in the NCAA Championships, two in the AAU Championships and three at the Olympic Trials." The Summer Games of 1936 were held in Berlin, where Nazi leader Adolf Hitler seemed determined to display the superiority of the German "Aryan" race. Owens, an African-American, put that notion to rest with victories in the 100- and 200-meter dash, the broad jump (a forerunner to today's long jump) and the 4x100-meter relay. The performance made Jesse Owens both an Olympic hero and a lasting symbol of black pride. In 1976, President Gerald Ford awarded Owens the prestigious Medal of Freedom.
Extra Credit

Jesse Owens got the nickname “Jesse” when a teacher misunderstood his initials, J.C… Jesse Owens married his high school sweetheart, Minnie Ruth Solomon, in 1935, and they remained married until his death in 1980. They had three daughters: Gloria (born 1932), Marlene (b. 1937) and Beverly (b. 1940)… Jesse Owens was the first American to win four track and field medals in one Olympics… His father was a sharecropper and his grandfather was a slave… The 1936 Olympics also featured a more controversial Ohioan, Stella Walsh.

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