04/29, 1999 Grace Thorpe speaks at CSU - Chico Campus
April 29, Grace Thorpe will be appearing
on the Chico Campus of Calif. State U.

Grace Thorpe
Native American activist and daughter of Olympic sports legend Jim Thorpe
Appearances and Interviews
April 15 - 19, Jim Thorpe, PA

Thorpe daughter rallies his fans

She's in namesake town to boost him for Athlete of the Century
April 16, 1999

By James E. Wilkerson
Of the Morning Call

Grace Thorpe brightened up when she heard the news.

"Oh, we've got to tell everyone," said the 77 year-old American Indian, rushing to the microphone Thursday in the Jim Thorpe High School auditorium to share the news with students.

Just minutes earlier, she learned the state Legislature had backed her four-year effort to have her legendary father, Jim Thorpe, named Athlete of the Century.

State lawmakers Wednesday passed resolutions giving her father the designation. A copy of the House resolution, sponsored by state Rep. Keith McCall, D-Carbon, who represents the 122nd District, will be forwarded to the cable sports network ESPN. The Senate resolution was sponsored by Sen. James Rhoades, R-Schuylkill, who represents the 29th District.

For Grace Thorpe, the news was one shining moment of vindication in her quest to remind the world that the 20th century's greatest athlete may have walked the Earth long before the likes of pro basketball star Michael Jordan and former heavy-weight boxing champion Muhammad Ali.

Her goal to have ESPN, Congress or the Associated Press name her father Athlete of the Century.

"It's going to happen. I feel it in the air," Thorpe said.

Thorpe was making an appearance in the Carbon County town, which has been her father's final resting place for more that three decades, to rally some last-minute support for her cause.

Thorpe died in 1953 in California as 64. His daughter said Thursday he died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was destitute and ravaged by years of drinking.

The athlete never visited the borough of Jim Thorpe - formerly Mauch Chunk and East Mauch - but his widow, Patricia Fitzpatrick Thorpe, approved his reburial there. She had searched the country for a town at would honor her late husband after the governor of Oklahoma vetoed a move by that state's Legislature that $25,000 be spent on a memorial to the athlete.

Grace Thorpe kicked off her visit to Carbon County with a talk to Jim Thorpe high school students and will continue her tour - sponsored by the Jim Thorpe Area Sports Hall of Fame - through Monday, when she will fly back to her home in Oklahoma.

Her goal to have her father named the century's greatest athlete brings some stiff competition, given that Thorpe lived and played sports long before there was "Monday Night Football" or television cameras to show the world his feats in baseball, football, track and other sports.

But the American Indian sportsman's lifetime achievements should convince even the biggest Ali or Jordan fan that Thorpe had them all beat, Grace Thorpe Said.

"It's very important that he be acknowledged for his versatility," she said. "There's nobody that has been as active in as many sports as he had."

In 1912, Thorpe won the decathlon and the pentathlon in the Olympic game's at Stockholm, Sweden. King Gustav V of Sweden, in presenting Thorpe with two gold medals, proclaimed: "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world."

Thorpe was later stripped of his medals because he had played professional baseball in 1911. The medals were reinstated decades later.

From her home in Oklahoma and on the road, Grace Thorpe has spearheaded a petition campaign that has gathered thousands of signatures supporting her father as the Athlete of the Century.

Among the accomplishments listed on the petition are:

  • The two gold medals for track events in the 1912 Olympics.
  • His role as founding father of professional football, serving as the first elected president of the American Professional Football Association, now the National Football League.
  • His career as a professional baseball player with the New York Giants, the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Braves, among others.
  • Being named best all-around male athlete of the half-century in a 1950 Association Press poll.
  • Winning the pentathlon and decathlon at the Amateur Athletic Union's National Championship Trials in 1912 in Boston, just before the Olympics.

Grace Thorpe hopes that her father's record will speak for itseft and convince ESPN to name her father Athlete of the Century as part of an ongoing series of profiles that will culminate at the end of the year.

Though the sports station has kept the top names on the list very hush-hush, she has been encouraged by its intense interest in her family and her father's career in recent months.

"Would they pay all that attention if he weren't up there?" she said. But she's not counting on an easy ride.

The state resolutions followed a resolution passed earlier in the year in Oklahoma.

Also, Grace Thorpe intends to petition federal lawmakers for a similar resolution.

"We can use all the help we can get in getting dad recognized," she said.

She'll be looking for more support at an appearance at 9 a.m. today at Jim Thorpe National Bank. She will attend the Jim Thorpe Area Sports Hall of Fame banquet Saturday and will give a lecture at the Jim Thorpe Area School District's L.B. Morris School at 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Morning Call writer Michael Race contributed to this report.

A Fighter
Grace a champion also
April 20, 1999

The Times News
Lehighton, PA

It was obvious from the moment she arrived in Jim Thorpe last week, Grace Thorpe wasn't feeling well.

The daughter of the legendary athlete, Jim Thorpe, was in her father's namesake community campaigning to have the Olympic champion designated by the major news media as the 20th Century's top athlete.

"Bronchitis," she told her hosts. That's why she was under the weather. But still she managed to make it to the planned luncheons and other speaking engagements, often grabbing "cat naps" in her host's car to recharge her batteries.

Her whirlwind visit to Carbon County would be a physical strain on anyone, let alone a woman in her 70s. But Grace Thorpe wasn't about to allow her mission, carried here from Oklahoma, to be sidetracked.

But finally the hectic pace caught up to her. Saturday evening, Grace was hospitalized in Lehighton with what the doctors are describing as high blood pressure and a rapid heart beat. It caused her to miss several other planned engagements over the weekend.

Federal, state and local dignitaries were impressed with Ms. Thorpe's intensity and her pride for her late father's accomplishments when they attended the "Athlete of the Century" luncheon Friday. Observing this woman crusade gave everyone a glimpse of what made Jim Thorpe the tremendous competitor and champion he was. Often those intangibles are passed down from one generation to another, and this was no exception.

Regardless what happens later this year when the balloting for the century's top athlete is finally counted, Jim Thorpe will always be considered Number One in this area. And a large part of the allegiance he receives here is because of the promoting done by his daughter, who loves visiting here.

Get well, Grace. The rest of 1999 is going to be an exciting time. And, if the people who make the decisions concerning who's Number One know their sports, and realize the greatness of Jim Thorpe's accomplishments, Grave is going to need all the stamina she has to accept all those congratulations.

No Tenoquah

Woman With the Power of the Wind that Blows Up Before a Storm
"Our Homes are Not Dumps - No Nuclear Waste on Indian Land!"

"I thought about all that has happened to our people over the years. Every treaty we have made has been broken. I couldn't let this happen."

Grace Thorpe

Thursday, April 29, 1999
7:30 PM
Open seating - doors will open at 7:00 PM
BMU Garden Café
Free Admission

California State University
Chico Campus
Chico, California
For information: Barbara Kopicki 530-898-5033

Co-sponsored by the AS, Recycling Program

Grace Thorpe (Sac and Fox) is a leading activist and organizer against nuclear waste dumping on Indian lands. She is the Director of the National Environmental Coalition of Native Americans (NECONA) and sits in the Board of Directors of the Nuclear Information and Research Service. Thanks to her efforts, 75 nuclear-free zones have been established on reservations, and 14 of the 17 tribes who sought nuclear waste zoning have withdrawn their applications. For her tireless work on the front line of Native American politics, Thorpe received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Youth Council. Thorpe, also a Sac and Fox Tribal District Court Judge, is the daughter of legendary Olympic champion Jim Thorpe. She led the campaign for the return of his 1912 Olympic medals and recently kicked off a campaign to declare her father "American Athlete of the Century."

Thorpe's past work include: serving as the Legislative Aide to the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs in Washington D.C.; National Congress American Indians Conference Coordinator; U.S. House of Representatives - American Indian Policy Review Commission Congressional Liaison; and Director of Return Surplus Lands to the Indians Project. Her published writings include: Our Homes Are Not Dumps: Creating Nuclear Free Zones, and The Jim Thorpe Family History.

Return to NECONA main page
National Environmental Coalition of Native Americans