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Fri, 09.12.1913

Jesse Owens, Olympic Track & Field Athlete born

Jesse Owens

This date marks the birth of Jesse Owens in 1913. He was a Black  Track & Field sprinter, businessman, and one of the greatest track & field athletes ever.

He was born James Cleveland Owens in Danville, Alabama. He competed in interscholastic track meets while attending high school, excelling in the running broad jump, the 100-yard dash, and the 220-yard dash.  He attended Ohio State University and was a member of the University's track squad.  In 1935, he established a world record of 26 ft 8 in. for the running broad jump; the next year, he set a new world record of 10.2 sec for the 100-meter dash.

A member of the U. S. track team in the 1936 Olympic Games, held in Berlin, Owens won four gold medals. He won the 100-meter dash in 10.3 sec, equaling the Olympic record, and set a new Olympic and world record of 20.7 sec.; in the 200-meter dash, and won the running broad jump with a leap of 26 ft 5– in., setting a new Olympic record. He was also a member of the U. S. 400-meter relay team that year, which set a new Olympic and world record of 39.8 sec.

An additional episode in his life includes his 1936 friendship with german running broad jumper Karl 'Lutz' Long.  Long and Owens corresponded after the olympics.  In his last letter, Long wrote to Owens and asked him to contact his son Karl after the war and tell him about his father and "what times were like when we not separated by war. I am saying—tell him how things can be between men on this earth." After the war, Owens traveled to Germany to meet his son Karl Long.

Despite Owens's outstanding athletic performance, German leader Adolph Hitler refused to acknowledge his Olympic victories because Owens was Black.  Also, President Roosevelt only invited white athletes from the team to the White House upon returning to America.

Owens went on to play an active role in youth athletic programs and later established his own public relations firm. His autobiography, “The Jesse Owens Story,” was published in 1970. He died in 1980.

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