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Sports Then and Now



Remembering Jesse Owens: An American Hero 6

Posted on November 15, 2009 by Blaine Spence
Jesse Owens became an American hero at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Jesse Owens became an American hero at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Perhaps you have heard of Jesse Owens.  Back in 1936, he won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics, becoming the first American to do so.

Not only did he become the first American to accomplish this feat, he also sent a loud message to Adolph Hitler and his ideology.

Hitler was convinced that the white race (Aryan) was superior to all others.  This became all too evident in the horrifying discoveries of concentration camps near the end of the war.

In what sounds almost like a cliché, James Cleveland Owens was born on Sept. 12, 1913 to a poor sharecropping family, the grandson of slaves.

In trying to do what was best for the family, Owens’ parents (Henry and Emma) moved the family from Oakville, Alabama, to Cleveland, Ohio, when Owens was just nine years old.

Two things that would shape Owens’ life occurred from the move to Ohio.

The first being how he arrived at his moniker.  As a young boy growing up in the South, everyone simply called James by his first two initials, “J.C.”

Upon his arrival to the Cleveland public school system, his name quickly changed.

Apparently, when one of his teachers asked him what he preferred to be called, Owens replied, “J.C.”  His teacher mistakenly thought he had said, “Jesse” and James Cleveland Owens from that day forward became known as Jessie Owens.

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