Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Jesse Owens

The best things to come out of Lawrence County, Alabama, is Highway 157 and Jesse Owens.

 He was born in Oakville, just east of Moulton, to a sharecropping family.  When Jesse was nine years old, the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio.

 In high school, Jesse caught the attention of a track coach, who helped train him.  The rest, as they say, is history - history that Alabama can be proud of.

 The 1936 Olympics were held in Berlin, Germany.  Adolph Hitler, already powerful, opened the games.  Hitler thought the games would show how much better German athletes would perform, proving his theory of racial superiority for Aryans.  How disappointed the twisted little dictator must have been when our Jesse won four gold medals!  Hitler refused to shake hands with the black winners, and told those close to him to make sure that no blacks be allowed to compete in any future Olympic games.

Years later, Mr. Owens said they had no idea how far-reaching Hitler's refusal to shake hands with him would be.  Sadly, Mr. Owens was probably accustomed to such rude behavior.

When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn't ride in the front of the bus. I had to go to the back door. I couldn't live where I wanted. I wasn't invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn't invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.

I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.

We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.

The Jesse Owens Museum is just off Highway 157 in Oakville, near the spot where Jesse breathed his first breath.  Stop by if you are in the area; it is well worth your time.