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James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens (September 12, 1913 – March 31, 1980) was an American track and field athlete and four-time Olympic gold medalist in the 1936 games.
Owens specialized in the sprints and the long jump and was recognized in his lifetime as "perhaps the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history". His achievement of setting three world records and tying another in less than an hour at the 1935 Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been called "the greatest 45 minutes ever in sport" and has never been equalled. At the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, Owens won international fame with four gold medals: 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and 4 × 100 meter relay. He was the most successful athlete at the games and, as a black man, was credited with "single-handedly crushing Hitler's myth of Aryan supremacy", although he "wasn't invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either."
The Jesse Owens Award is USA Track and Field's highest accolade for the year's best track and field athlete. Owens was ranked by ESPN as the sixth greatest North American athlete of the twentieth century and the highest-ranked in his sport.
- May this light shine forever
- as a symbol to all who run
- for the freedom of sport,
- for the spirit of humanity,
- for the memory of Jesse Owens.
- 1936 AP Athlete of the Year (male)
- In 1936, four English Oak saplings, one for each Olympic gold medal, from the German Olympic Committee, were planted. One of the trees was planted at the University of Southern California, one at Rhodes High School in Cleveland, where he trained, and one is rumored to be located on the Ohio State University campus, but has yet to be identified. The fourth tree was located at the home of Jesse Owens' mother, but was removed when the house was demolished.
- In 1970, Owens was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
- In 1976 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford.
- In 1976, he was made part of the Olympic Order for his fight against racism in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
- In 1980, a new asteroid was discovered by Antonín Mrkos at Kleť Observatory which was named as 6758 Jesseowens in honor of Jesse Owens.
USA Track and Field created the Jesse Owens Award in 1981, which is given annually to the country's top track and field athlete.
- In 1983, Owens was part of the inaugural class into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
- In 1984, an Emmy Award-winning biographical television film of his life, The Jesse Owens Story, was released, with Dorian Harewood portraying Owens.
- In 1984 a street near the Olympic Stadium in Berlin was renamed Jesse-Owens-Allee, and the Jesse Owens Realschule/Oberschule (a secondary school) in Berlin-Lichtenberg, was named for him.
- On March 28, 1990, Owens was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George H. W. Bush.
- Two U.S. postage stamps have been issued to honor Owens, one in 1990 and another in 1998.
- In 1996, Owens's hometown of Oakville, Alabama, dedicated Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum in his honor, at the same time that the Olympic Torch came through the community, 60 years after his Olympic triumph. An article in the Wall Street Journal of June 7, 1996, covered the event and included this inscription written by poet Charles Ghigna that appears on a bronze plaque at the Park:
- In 2001, The Ohio State University dedicated Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium for track and field events. A sculpture honoring Owens occupies a place of honor in the esplanade leading to the rotunda entrance to Ohio Stadium. Owens competed for the Buckeyes on the track surrounding the football field that existed prior to the 2001 expansion of Ohio Stadium. The campus also houses three recreational centers for students and staff named in his honor.
- In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Jesse Owens on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
- In Cleveland, Ohio, a statue of Owens in his Ohio State track suit was installed at Fort Huntington Park, west of the old Courthouse.
Phoenix, Arizona named the Jesse Owens Medical Plaza in his honor, as well as Jesse Owens Parkway.
- In Markus Zusak's 2006 bestselling novel, The Book Thief, a character named Rudy Steiner idolizes Owens.
- Jesse Owens Park, located in Tucson, Arizona, is a staple of local youth athletics there.
- At the 2009 World Athletic Championships in Berlin, all members of the United States Track & Field team wore badges with "JO" to commemorate Owens's victories in the same stadium 73 years before.
- In early 2010, the Ohio Historical Society proposed Jesse Owens as a finalist from a statewide vote for inclusion in Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol.
- On November 15, 2010, the city of Cleveland renamed East Roadway, between Rockwell and Superior avenues in Public Square, Jesse Owens Way.
- A novel in French written by Lebanese novelist Alexandre Najjar, Berlin 36, Plon (publisher), Paris, 2009, tells the story of Owens, particularly during the Berlin Olympic games. Najjar visited Chicago, Ohio and Alabama to achieve this distinguished tribute to Owens.
- For his contribution to sports in Los Angeles, he was honored with a Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum "Court of Honor" plaque by the Coliseum commissioners.
- In the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, just after the Olympic cauldron had been lit, the 80,000 individual pixels in the audience seating area were used as a giant video screen to show footage of Owens running around the stadium.
- A feature film titled Race about Owens with Stephan James portraying Owens was released February 19, 2016. Shooting began in Montreal on July 24, 2014.
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