Jesse Owens Fact File Biography: Lifespan: 1913 - 1980 *** Full Name: James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens *** Nickname: J.C. *** Occupation: American Track and Field Athlete *** Date of Birth: Jesse Owens was born on September 12th 1913 *** Place of Birth: Jesse Owens was born in Oakville, Alabama, U.S. *** Family background: His father was Henry Cleveland Owens and his mother was Mary Emma Fitzgerald. As part of the Great Migration 1.5 million African Americans moved from the southern segregated states *** Early life and childhood: He grew up in Cleveland with nine siblings including three sisters and six brothers *** Education: Jesse Owens attended Fairmount Junior High School and later attended East Technical High School ***
Jesse Owens Fact 1: Jesse Owens was born on September 12th 1913 and during the 20th century period in history when there were world changing events happening including the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War.
Jesse Owens Fact 2: It is believed that when he attended school for first time and was asked his name for registration, as his accent was so strong when he said J.C. his teacher heard Jesse and from then that was how he would be known.
Jesse Owens Fact 3: As a young boy Jesse worked different jobs to earn a little money, delivering groceries, working in a shoe repair shop and the like and during this time he came to realize he simply loved to run.
Jesse Owens Fact 4: It would be his junior high track coach, Charles Riley, at Fairmount Junior High School who would give him the encouragement he need to embark on an athletic career.
Jesse Owens Fact 5: Owens met his future wife while still in school, he was fifteen years old and Minnie Ruth Solomon was thirteen years old. They dated throughout high school and in 1932 their first daughter Gloria was born. In 1935 they were married and together had two more daughters, Marlene and Beverly. They remained married for the rest of their lives.
Jesse Owens Fact 6: Jesse went on to attend Ohio State University. In 1935 he won four individual National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships and for the following year. His title was only beaten in 2006 by Xavier Carter.
Jesse Owens Fact 7: He was not fortunate enough to have received any scholarship to attend school and so had to maintain a job in order to pay his way. While travelling with the team, he together with the other African-American students were only allowed to stay in “black-only” hotels and eat in “blacks-only” restaurants or use take-out establishments.
Jesse Owens Fact 8: May 25th 1935 would see Owens greatest accomplishment. It would take forty five minutes to change his life. It was at the Big Ten meet at Ferry Field in Ann Arbor in Michigan. He proceeded to set three world records and came tied for the fourth.
Jesse Owens Fact 9: His records were set in the long jump at 26ft 8 ¼ in and world record that would not be broken for 25 years, a sprint in 20.3 seconds and low hurdles completed in 22.6 seconds, he became the first person to break the 23 second record.
Jesse Owens Fact 10: The Summer Olympics were being held in Berlin in 1936 and Owens won his place to compete. So well-known was he, as he disembarked the train girls were snipping at his clothes with scissors for souvenirs causing him to step back onto the train. Whenever he left the athletes village after that he had to be escorted by soldiers.
Jesse Owens Fact 11: It was during the period in Germany when Nazism was making a resurgence and the Nazi propaganda machine was churning out concepts of “Aryan racial superiority” and claiming Africans as sub-human. Hitler was also banking on his superior German athletes proving his point by winning medals.
Jesse Owens Fact 12: In answer to this Owens went ahead and won himself and his country four gold medals.
Jesse Owens Fact 13: He would win the 100m sprint in 10.3 seconds on August 3rd. He won the long jump on August 4th with a leap of 26ft 5in, on August 5th he took part in the 200m spring and won with a time of 20.7 seconds and on August the 9th he won a joint gold medal in the 4x100 sprint relay together with Frank Wykoff, Foy Draper and Ralf Metcalfe and Owens, having replaced Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller and set a world record of 39.8 seconds.
Jesse Owens Fact 14: Before the competition began Jesse was visited by Adi Dassler who was the founder of the Adidas athletic shoe company who asked Owens to use Gebruder Dassler Schuhfabrik shoes and would become the first male African-American to receive sponsorship.
Jesse Owens Fact 15: While in Germany the African-American members of the team were allowed to stay in the same hotels as their teammates.
Jesse Owens Fact 16: Although he had been invited to compete in Sweden after Berlin, Owens decided to go home and see if he could make some money from some of the profitable commercial offers he had been made.
Jesse Owens Fact 17: Unfortunately the United States athletic officials became furious with him and ended his carrier immediately by withdrawing his amateur status. After that, unable to make any sporting appearances to lift his profile his commercial offers vanished.
Jesse Owens Fact 18: With nothing left he to work in a dry cleaners and also worked in a gas station to try and earn a living. He was eventually forced to file for bankruptcy.
Jesse Owens Fact 19: At his very lowest he was given aid to rehabilitate and the government would appoint him as the U.S. goodwill ambassador given Owens the opportunity to travel the world. When he retired he became the owner of racehorses.
Jesse Owens Fact 20: Jesse Owens died on March 31st 1980 aged sixty six of lung cancer in his home in Tucson, Arizona surrounded by his wife and family. His body was laid to rest in Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago.
Jesse Owens Influence & Legacy: There has been some controversy over whether or not Hitler shook Jesse Owens hand the Berlin Olympic Games. According to the news of the time Hitler snubbed all but the German athletes but according to Jesse Owens himself he said he shook his hand behind the honor stand and said he had a photograph of the moment. Although the photograph has not been seen, in 2014 a British fighter pilot Eric Brown stated in a BBC documentary that he had personally witnessed Hitler shaking the hand of Jesse Owens.
Short Facts about Jesse Owens for Kids
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