JESSE OWENS (1913-1980)
The life of Jesse Owens provides us with a shining example of persistence and determination that inspires Americans then and now. Jesse Owens won an unprecedented four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin. The scale of this accomplishment goes beyond his athletic ability due to the political circumstances at the time, namely Hitler’s attempt to prove his theory that the Aryan race was superior.
Owens came from humble beginnings; he was the seventh of ten children born to sharecroppers Henry and Emma Owens. Jesse began his life in Oakville, Alabama and later moved to Cleveland, Ohio when he was nine years old. It was an elementary school teacher who first began calling him Jesse instead of his nickname “J.C.” (an abbreviation for his given name James Cleveland).
"ONE CHANCE IS ALL YOU NEED." JESSE OWENS
In his youth, Owens took a number of odd jobs such as delivering groceries, loading freight cars and working in a shoe repair shop. As he grew, his athletic ability was unveiled at school. At Fairmount Junior High School Owens met track coach Charles Riley, who grew to be one of Owens’ greatest mentors. It was under his direction that Jesse Owens began setting new records in the high jump and broad jump.
Owens’ athletic achievements continued at East Technical High School in Cleveland where he won every track competition. Jesse won the Ohio state championship three years in a row. In addition, he set new high school records for the 100-yard dash and 220-yard dash and new world record for the broad jump. Because of these numerous outstanding achievements, a large number of college recruiters competed for his attention. Although they did not offer a track scholarship at that time, Jesse Owens chose to attend Ohio State University and worked while attending classes and competing.
COACH CHARLES RILEY CONGRATULATES OLYMPIC CHAMPION JESSE OWENS
At the time of the 1935 Big Ten Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Owens was suffering from back pain due to a fall down a flight of steps. He convinced his coach to allow him to run the 100-yard dash to see if he could compete. He did perform well - in fact Jesse Owens tied the world record and then went on to break an astounding three world records in other events.
The next major challenge Owen faced was competing at the 1936 Olympics. It was there, in Nazi Germany, that the name Jesse Owens would be elevated to a status rarely achieved by any athlete. Jesse was the very first American athlete in history to win four gold medals in Track and Field in a single Olympiad. It remained unmatched for 48 years until Carl Lewis achieved the same in the 1984 Olympics.
OLYMPIC LEGEND JESSE OWENS
- The first gold medal Jesse won was for running the 100 meter dash in 10.3 seconds, tying the world record.
- The second gold medal set a new record for the long jump with a jump of 26' 5 1/4", a record that was not broken until 1960 by Ralph Boston. Owens later credited his achievement to the technical advice of his respected German competitor Carl "Luz" Long.
- The third gold medal set a new record with 200 meter dash in 20.7 seconds
- The fourth gold medal was for a recording breaking first leg of a 400 meter relay, done in 39.8 seconds.
JESSE OWENS SETTING THREE OLYMPIC WORLD RECORDS, AND TYING A FOURTH
Reflecting on his experience, Owens said: "To a sprinter, the hundred-yard dash is over in three seconds, not nine or ten. The first 'second' is when you come out of the blocks. The next is when you look up and take your first few strides to attain gain position. By that time the race is actually about half over. The final 'second' – the longest slice of time in the world for an athlete – is that last half of the race, when you really bear down and see what you're made of. It seems to take an eternity, yet is all over before you can think what's happening."
Upon Jesse's return to the U.S. Owens was not greeted with the fanfare we see today. He was forced to find work any way he could. He eventually found that he had a gift for working with underprivileged youth working first as a playground director in Cleveland and later on in leadership positions at the Chicago Boys' Club. Jesse's success in this realm led to many speaking invitations for youth, sports, and cultural organizations.
JESSE AND RUTH OWENS
Unfortunately life of this multitalented champion was cut short by lung cancer. Owens, a long-time smoker, was survived by his wife Ruth and their three daughters, Gloria, Marlene and Beverly. The Jesse Owens Foundation was established in his memory and continues to help “individuals with the ambition, dedication, and courage to achieve success against significant personal odds.”
Collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx is a collector of museum-quality American historical memorabilia. Mr. Amyx has spent over a quarter of a century focused on important artifacts, providing expert consultation for government and private entities as well as acquiring, selling, and trading important historically significant items.
SIGNED PHOTO OF 1936 OLYMPIC LEGEND JESSE OWENS
Among the items in his private collection, Mr. Amyx is proud to display a signed photo of Olympic Gold Medalist Jesse Owens. The photo pictures Owens in sprinting stride at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin.
RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX - HISTORIAN AND COLLECTOR