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Jesse Ownes - His Life and Story

Aug 8, 2008
The man known to the world as Jesse Owens was given the full name of James Cleveland Owens when he was born on the 12th of September in 1913. His parents were Henry and Emma Owens, who provided for their ten children by planting various crops on their farm in Oakville, Alabama.

Financial difficulties forced the Owens family to relocate to Cleveland, Ohio. The seventh of the ten, young J.C. earned the moniker Jesse when his teacher mistook "JC" for Jesse, and it stuck with him.

Life still proved difficult for the family, and young Jesse had to perform various odd jobs after school to help. Nevertheless, he still found time to engage in his favorite activity: running. And it was in one of these gym exercises that coach Charles Riley saw the potential in the young man.

Jesse Owens joined the high school team, and there was no turning back. In his last year at high school at Cleveland East High he equaled the 100 yard world record, and duplicated the feat when he competed in the Chicago Interscholastic Championships.

Although a budding track star, Jesse Owens experienced many more hardships especially when he entered Ohio State University in 1933. Racial discrimination was still widespread; he could only participate in "blacks only" campus events, and was also denied scholarship. Furthermore he could only stay and enter hotels and eateries that were for blacks. Yet he persevered.

On May 25, 1935, Jesse Owens established three world records and equaled another. This feat, which took place in Ann Arbor, was made all the more remarkable because the time involved spanned less than 45 minutes. In addition, Owens had an injured back. Yet despite this, he equaled the 100 yard dash time of 9.4 seconds. At his very first attempt at the broad jump, he leapt 26 feet 8 inches, smashing the previous mark by six inches.

Next, he clocked in 20.3 seconds at the 220 yard dash, obliterating the old record by three tenths of a second. Finally Jesse Owens set another world record at the 220 yard low hurdles, setting a new mark by completing it in 22.6 seconds.

It was against this background that Jesse Owens entered the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Here, Adolf Hitler wanted to prove to the world that the German Aryan race was superior, but Owens instead emerge victorious in the broad jump,100 meter, the 200 meter sprint and was part of the 400 meter relay team that took the gold.

For all his success on the field, Jesse Owens still had financial problems. He could not get any endorsements because he was black, so he had to resort to performing in exhibitions, running against baseball players, race horses, bikes etc.

Eventually he became involved in public speaking engagements and this proved so successful he managed to establish his own PR firm. He spoke for Olympics committees, companies, and also the youth.

In 1976, US President Gerald Ford awarded Jesse Owens the Medal of Freedom for having fought and defeated the forces of racism and bigotry to emerged triumphant.
About the Author
John Grant is a the author for a Jesse Owen autobiography site where he is writing articles about Jesse Owens life.
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