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Fri, 09.12.1913

Jesse Owens, Olympic track and field legend

Jesse Owens

This date marks the birth of Jesse Owens in 1913. He was an African American sprinter and businessman and one of the greatest track-and-field athletes of all time.

He was born James Cleveland Owens in Danville, Alabama, and educated at Ohio State University. 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. As a member of the Ohio State University 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; 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. Despite Owens's outstanding athletic performance, German leader Adolph Hitler refused to acknowledge his Olympic victories because Owens was Black.

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.

The World Book Encyclopedia.
Copyright 1996, World Book, Inc.
ISBN 0-7166-0096-X

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