Wednesday, September 4, 2013

JESSE OWENS - Olympian and Humanitarian 1913-1980

After driving by the Jesse Owens Memorial off Highway 157 in Lawrence County, AL, many times, we decided to visit the museum and memorial dedicated to an outstanding athlete and humanitarian who died in 1980, but whose life and world records have continued to make a lasting impression on people all over the world.  The Visitor's Center, Museum, Memorial and Park were built with private donations, and are made within steps of where Jesse Owens, son of a sharecropper (grandson of slaves), and 9 siblings, lived in Oakville, AL until he was 9 years old.
Jesse Owens Museum - Oakville, AL

Olympian Statue of Jesse Owens

While attending Ohio State in 1935 Owens, also known as "The Buckeye Bullet", broke 3 world records and tied another.

Long Jump                  26', 8.25" (this record stood for over 20 years)
220 Yard Dash            20.3 seconds
220 Yard low hurdles   22.6 seconds
100 Yard Dash            A 9.4 second (tied the world record)

Olympic Record Jump - 26'5.25"

The Olympic Record Jump in perspective!

Jesse Owens participated in the 1936 Olympics in Germany and captured his first Olympic gold medal by winning the 100 meter dash in 10.3 seconds, on August 3, 1936.  His second Olympic gold medal of the Games was won by winning the long jump when he covered 26', 5.5", on August 4, 1936.  His third Olympic gold medal was won with a 20.7 second 200-meter sprint.   His 4th gold medal was attained when he ran the 100-meter lead in the 400 meter relay.
"When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn't ride in the front of the bus. I had to go to the back door. I couldn't live where I wanted. I wasn't invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn't invited to the White House to shake hands with the president, either."

– Jesse Owens

In 1988, President George H. Bush presented Ruth Owens (widow of Jesse Owens), the Congressional Gold Medal, recognizing his accomplishments in track, his sincere patriotism, and his humanitarian achievements.
Replica of Congressional Gold Medal
In 1976, President Gerald Ford presented Jesse Owens, the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the U.S. bestows upon a civilian.
The Medal Of Freedom
A plaque at the life size statue of Jesse Owens outside the Museum says "Athelete and humanitarian whose inspiration personifies the spirit and promise of America."  The Memorial, which sits several miles off Highway 157, near Moulton, AL, is peaceful, beautiful and very impressive, and we're glad we took the time to learn more about this national hero and olympic champion.

Plaque on Statue of Olympian Jesse Owens

Scenic Road to Oakville, AL
Note:  In the first paragraph, the link to the Jesse Owens Museum is definitely worth opening if you are interested in learning more about the life of Jesse Owens.   If you are close to this area of northwest Alabama, we definitely think it is worth visiting.  There is no admission, but donations are appreciated.  A gift shop is located inside he museum.

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