Saturday, January 14, 2006

Jesse Owens, Part 1

One thing that Charlie Chan at the Olympics* almost glosses over is Jesse Owens.
James Cleveland Owens was born in 1913 in a small town in Alabama to Henry and Emma Owens. When J.C. was eight, his parents decided to move the family to Cleveland, Ohio. . . . On his first day in class, when the teacher asked his name, she heard Jesse, instead of J.C. He would be called Jesse from that point on. . . .
One day in gym class, the students were timed in the 60-yard dash, When Coach Charlie Riley saw the raw, yet natural talent tha young Jesse had, he immediately invited him ot run for the track team. Although Jesse was unable to participate in after-school practices because of work, Coach Riley offered to train him in the mornings. Jesse agreed.
At Cleveland East Techical High School, Jesse became a track star. As a senior, he tied the world record in the 100-yard dash with a time of 9.4 seconds, only to tie it again while running in the Interscholastic Championships in Chicago. While in Chicago, he also leaped a distance of 24 feet 9 5/8 inches in the braod-jump.
Many colleges and universities tried to recruit Jesse; he chose to attend Ohio State University. Here Jesse met some of his fiercest competition, and not just on the track. The United States was still struggling to desegregate in 1933, which led to many difficult experiences for Jesse. He was required to live off campus with other African-American athletes. When he traveled with the team, Jesse could either order carryout or eat at "blacks-only" restaurants. Likewise, he slept in "blacks-only" hotels. On occasion, a "white" hotel would allow the black athletes to stay, but they had to use the back door, and the stairs instead of the elevator. Because Jesse was not awarded a scholarship from the university, he continued to wrk part-time to pay for school.
[To be continued]
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