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date: 21 April 2021

Owens, Jesselocked

(12 September 1913–31 March 1980)
  • William J. Baker


Owens, Jesse (12 September 1913–31 March 1980), Olympic track champion, was born James Cleveland Owens in Oakville, Alabama, the son of Henry Owens and Mary Emma Fitzgerald, sharecroppers. Around 1920 the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where the nickname “Jesse” originated when a schoolteacher mispronounced his drawled “J. C.” A junior high school teacher of physical education, Charles Riley, trained Owens in manners as well as athletics, preparing him to set several interscholastic track records in high school. In 1932 the eighteen-year-old Owens narrowly missed winning a place on the U.S. Olympic team. Enrolling in 1933 at Ohio State University, Owens soared to national prominence under the tutelage of coach Larry Snyder. As a sophomore at the Big Ten championships, held on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan, on 25 May 1935 he broke world records in the 220-yard sprint, the 220-yard hurdles, and the long jump, and equaled the world record in the 100-yard dash....

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