Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens/AP
Jesse Owens/AP

Born James Cleveland Owens in Oakville, AL near Moulton, on Dec. 9, 1913.  His father was a sharecropper, and as a young boy Jesse learned about ploughing, mules and chopping cotton.

Jesse moved with the family to Ohio at the age of nine.  With opportunity and coaching, Jesse developed his track skills.  Nature had blessed him with an extraordinary pair of heavily muscled legs that worked like pistons. 
As a senior at Ohio State he shattered three world records and tied a fourth.  He gained international fame at the 1936 Olympics.

The Berlin games were planned by Adolph Hitler to launch his campaign to prove Aryan superiority.  Hitler knew the entire world would be watching.

Jesse stopped Hitler's propaganda campaign cold.  He won the 100 meters, set a new Olympic and world record in the 200 meters, set a new and world record in the broad jump and was a member of the 400-meter relay team which also set a new record earning 4 gold medals.  Hitler refused to shake Jesse's hand, turned his back and walked out of the stadium defeated.

Definitely a hero, Jesse didn't get the shoe contracts or product endorsements athletes are so accustomed to today.  He went on to become a successful public relations official in Chicago.

Owens was instrumental as Alabama's Special Athletes prepared for their first foray into the Alabama Special Olympics program which became one of the country's most successful.

On raising children Owens once said, " I have been able to provide for the majority of the needs of my children, and some of their wants.  Not all of their wants.  There is an area of responsiblity.  If you don't watch out, kids grow up and go out thinking the world owes them a living.  The world owes them nothing."