Jesse Owens, (born James Cleveland Owens), is best remembered for winning 4 Olympic track and field gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics at the age of 21. His feat as the first athlete in history to set and match Olympic and world records caused ruffles in the German leaders “showcase” event. Not many are aware that in 1935, Jesse had matched the world record in the 100-yard sprint, and set 3 new world records in other track and field events.
The Early Life of Jesse “James Cleveland” Owens
Jesse was the youngest of ten. At the age of 8, his family moved to Cleveland, OH, where he attended Fairmont Junior High School. This was the beginning of his athletic career.
Very early on he was spotted by Coach Charlie Riley, who agreed to train Jesse as part of the track team. Due to the poor financial situation of his family, Jesse was busy after school working various jobs to help support his home. He explained the situation to Coach Charlie Riley, and they agreed to train in the mornings before school started.
Jesse went on to match the world record of 9.4 seconds in the 100-yard sprint as a senior. This achievement brought him many recruiters, but Jesse decided to attend Ohio State University without a scholarship so that he could remain close to home.
Post Olympics Fame
Jesse’s fame did not come easily, after leaving Ohio State University, he decided to try and cash in on his Olympic glory. Unfortunately, due to his color, he was unable to secure any endorsements from big brands. In the end, he decided to challenge himself by running against horses, motorcycles, and other big-name athletes, often giving a head start and usually beating them to the finish.
Due to his very outgoing personality, Jesse spent a lot of time in front of the camera at public speaking events, which eventually led to him forming his public relations business. Much of his time was spent crossing the country as an ambassador for the US Olympic Committee and companies like Ford. During these events, he would speak about the importance of working hard, loyalty and religion. He also spent a great deal of time helping underprivileged children and developing their sports programs.
The Jesse Owens Foundation was established in 1980 and honors his legacy by offering scholarships for young people to attend Ohio State University.
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