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Jesse Owens

The Legend Of Jesse Owens

The last decade of Owens's life brought him renewed acclaim. In 1974 he was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame and in 1976 President Carter honored him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Taking up retirement in Scottsdale, Arizona, Owens suffered from physical ailments brought on by his pack-aday smoking habit. The habit resulted in a diagnosis of lung cancer for Owens in 1979. He died in Tucson, Arizona on March 31, 1980 from the disease, leaving behind his wife, Ruth Solomon Owens, and three daughters. He was honored posthumously by an induction into the US Olympic Committee Hall of Fame in 1983.

One of the first African-American athletes to emerge as a truly national hero, Jesse Owens was an important figure in the sporting history of the United States. His participation in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games resulted in four Gold Medals, two with new world records and two with new Olympic records. Indeed, his achievements demanded recognition from sports fans regardless of his ethnicity and inspired future generations of African-American athletes to pursue their own dreams of Olympic greatness. Although his post-Olympic career generated some negative publicity for his business troubles, Owens remained an Olympic legend for the rest of his life. His eventual work as a corporate spokesman and motivational speaker allowed him to burnish this legend to the point where the 1936 Olympics seemed to be all about a confrontation between Owens and Hitler. In the end, his accomplishments alone were enough to rebut all the Nazi claims of Aryan superiority; the legend of Jesse Owens's performance did not need embellishment.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsTrack and FieldJesse Owens - Part Of The Great Migration, Athletic Success As A Teenager, Chronology, Related Biography: Coach Charles Riley