Thursday, May 6, 2010

Alabamian of the Month for May - Jesse Owens

Who would have thought that the son of a sharecropper and grandson of a slave would go on to become the best remembered athlete in Olympic history?  In winning four Olympic gold medals he thwarted Adolf Hitler's plans to use the games as an example of Aryan superiority.

James Cleveland Owens was born in Oakville, Alabama on September 12, 1913.

Called "J.C." by his family, the name "Jesse" was inadvertently given to him by a schoolteacher in Cleveland, Ohio, where the family moved when he was nine years old.  When asked for his name, he replied "J.C."  However, the teacher thought he said "Jesse," and that's the name she entered in her roll book. From then on he was known as Jesse Owens.

When Jesse was in high school, he won all of the major track events, including the Ohio state championship for three consecutive years. As a result of his high school career, several colleges recruited him. And although Ohio State University couldn't offer him a scholarship, he chose to enroll there. To support himself and his wife, Ruth, he worked several jobs: night elevator operator, waiter, and gas station attendant. He also worked in a local library, and served as a page at the Ohio Statehouse.  He somehow managed to find the time to practice and set records in intercollegiate competition.

More to come....

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