'Historic' day for JT
Celebration planned to honor
the century's greatest athlete
By MIKE URBAN
The Jim Thorpe Athlete of the Century Celebration on Sept. 9
is destined to be a day for the ages, promises Jack Kmetz.
"It's going to be an historic day in Jim Thorpe. It will
be monumental," said the president of the Jim Thorpe Sports
Hall of Fame, which is staging the celebration.
"The idea is to honor the athlete Jim Thorpe, pure and
simple. The celebration is intended as a day for all of Carbon
County, not just for the community of Jim Thorpe," Kmetz
"I want the kids of 2000 to remember this year's celebration
like I remember the celebration in 1957, when Jim Thorpe was
buried in Mauch Chunk. This has unlimited potential."
Last night the hall of fame met with various community groups
to discuss its plans for the celebration, and expressed its need
for both volunteer help and financial backing.
The event is being held to recognize Jim Thorpe's selection
in an ESPN/ABC Internet poll in January as the greatest athlete
of the century.
Because of his Olympic, football and baseball exploits, and
a large outpouring of local support, Thorpe finished with 56.7
percent of the vote, while Muhammad Ali was a distant second
with 14.3 percent.
The Sept. 9 celebration will begin at 9:30 with a ceremony at
the Jim Thorpe Mausoleum, continue with a parade along Route
903 starting at 11:30 a.m., and culminate with a festival from
1-11 p.m. at Memorial Park.
Hundreds of dignitaries, sports celebrities and organizations
have been invited to attend, and several big names have already
A number of Thorpe's family members, including his daughter,
Grace, who helped lead the charge to have him elected athlete
of the century, will participate.
Also taking part will be former Philadelphia Eagles star and
Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Chuck Bednarik, Penn State
University head men's basketball coach Jerry Dunn, retired CBS
sports broadcaster Chris Schenkel, and Olympic gold medal wrestler
Bobby Weaver, with more commitments expected in upcoming weeks,
At least 700 people and six bands will be marching in the parade,
including the Jim Thorpe, Notre Dame, and Panther Valley high
school bands, the Philadelphia Police Pipe and Drum Band, Ceol
Mor Pipe and Drum Band, Pocono Region Pipes and Drums, and likely
the University of Pennsylvania Marching Band, he said.
The parade will probably be started by two skydivers from the
Northeast Pennsylvania Ripcords, one of whom will be carrying
an American Flag, and the other a football that will be handed
off to Grace Thorpe, he said. Numerous Native Americans in full
regalia will also take part.
"The number of marchers has increased beyond our expectations,"
said Ron Sheehan of the hall of fame.
The festival will include live music by several groups, including
Tommy Schafer and the Blue Mountain Ramblers, food, vendors,
Jim Thorpe memorabilia, and Native American arts and crafts.
"The festival will be a good opportunity for everybody
in the community to meet the Thorpe family," said Kmetz.
"This is a once in a lifetime event. Every day it becomes
more exciting," said Jim Zurn of the hall of fame.
"It could be one of the largest events in the history of
Jim Thorpe," said Sheehan.
Because the celebration will cost more than the hall of fame
has in its coffers, the organization is asking for help from
local individuals, groups and businesses.
"We have big ideas, but we have small wallets," said
"If every family in Jim Thorpe, or across the county, would
donate $5, that would go a long, long way," Kmetz said.
"The whole county helped to get him elected, so we want
the whole county to take part. We're going to need everybody
to pull this thing off."
"We need organizations to help promote enthusiasm for the
celebration and strong community spirit," agreed Sheehan.
Any group or individual wishing to participate in the parade,
willing to donate their time or money to the celebration, or
seeking more information can either call Kmetz at (570)325-4923,
or write to the Jim Thorpe Sports Hall of Fame at PO Box 4004,
Jim Thorpe, 18229.
The next planning meeting will be held at Memorial Park at 7
p.m. on July 24, and all those interested are welcome to attend.
Thorpe earns ABC Sports' 'Athlete of the Century'
Yakama Nation Review
Feb. 4, 2000
Two daughters of Oklahoma native Jim Thorpe said they are thrilled he was named Athlete of the Century by ABC's Wide World of Sports before the Super Bowl.
"I am absolutely super-plus delighted," said 77-year old Grace Thorpe, who with her sister Gail campaigned hard for her father to get Athlete of the Century honors.
The honor was voted on by visitors to ABC's Web site, who could read the biographies of the 10 finalists for the award, and vote for their candidate.
Thorpe garnered more than half of the vote, with basketball star Michael Jordan finishing a distant second. The title was announced before ABC's Super Bowl telecast.
The award was fitting, said Grace and Gail, since their dad was one of the first professional football players in the country and president of the league that would become the National Football league.
The NFL's Most Valuable Player award was named in his honor.
Thorpe was third on The Associated Press poll of Athlete of the Century and named AP's Top Athlete of the first half of the century.
The sisters were glad their father received the honor on national television in front of millions of viewers.
"Dad is vindicated because it was the people who voted," said Grace.
Thorpe was born into the Sac and Fox Nation in a one-room cabin in 1887 in Keokuk Falls, Okla., which later became Prague. His first job was running after horses, said Grace. His Indian name was "Bright Path."
In the 1921 Olympics held in Stockholm, Sweden, Thorpe became the only man to win gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon. He was a world-class high jumper and three-time All-American in football. Thorpe also played professional baseball and was an outstanding golfer, swimmer, rower, gymnast and tennis player.
Time to Remember PROFILE: JIM THORPE, 1888-1953
Triumphs and turmoil mark great athlete's life
by Whit Canning
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world." - King Gustav V of Sweden.
"Thanks, King." - Jim Thorpe
When the above exchange took place on an Olympic stage at Stockholm in 1912 it was perhaps more notable for its cultural irony than a celebration of athletic excellence.
The laconic youth conversing with a European monarch was a Sac and Fox Indian, born to modest circumstances on a farm near Prague, Okla., on May 28, 1888.
His birth preceded by 12 years the advent of "The American Century" - and came two years before the slaughter at Wounded Knee in South Dakota ended, forever, the native American dream of independence.
Yet, before a generation had passed, Jim Thorpe was the idol of a nation fast becoming obsessed with sports and sports heroes.
Thorpe's achievements during the second decade of the 1900's make him perhaps the greatest all-around athlete of the century.
A storied football All -American on Glenn "Pop" Warner's teams at the Carlisle Indian School and a double gold medal winner in the 1912 (Olympics, Thorpe
- who later played baseball for the New York Giants and became a founder of the NFL - was indeed an American hero.
"He had an exceptional life," said Bill Thorpe, 70, a retired aircraft worker living in Arlington, Texas, and one of four children from Thorpe's second marriage. "I think that, because of his great athletic achievements, he never personally suffered any discrimination from being an Indian. And because I was his son, neither did I."
In 1950, three years before his death of a heart attack, Thorpe was voted the greatest American athlete of the century's first 50 years in -a poll of sports editors conducted by the Associated Press. Babe Ruth finished second.
Grace Thorpe figures the result should be the same for the century as a whole. The youngest of four children from Thorpe's first marriage, she has drafted a petition and resolution presenting her father's case as the greatest athlete of the century.
"I think I have pretty good evidence," said Thorpe, 77, who lives in Prague, near where her father grew up. "Name somebody else who played Major League Baseball and professional football and won two gold medals in the Olympics.
"Go up to the Pro Football Hall of fame in Canton, and the first thing you see when you walk in is a statue of my father - like he's coming right at you."
Thorpe's life, however, was hardly a grand procession of triumphs.
The son of Hiram and Charlotte Thorpe, his Indian - name Wa-Tho-Huk - meant "Bright Path," and in the beginning, Thorpe had a great friend and playmate; a twin brother, Charlie. They were inseparable, and the first great blow of Thorpe's life came at age 9 when CharIie dies of pneumonia.
"He told me once that he thought some of that tremendous energy he had might have rightfully belonged to his brother," Grace Thorpe said. "He felt he had somehow taken it away from Charlie, and it haunted him."
As a teen-ager, he lost both of his parents and eventually was sent to the great Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pa.
"The Indian schools of that day were the brainchild of Richard Henry Patt," Grace said. "He was army lieutenant back in the 1870s who captured a large number of Apaches and was amazed at how quickly they picked up the English language.
"He eventually founded Carlisle, and the idea was to create a comfortable atmosphere for assimilating the native peoples into the white culture .The schools were remarkably successful in their purpose, but they also totally destroyed the family."
At Carlisle, Thorpe found a mentor in Warner, a future bride in class-mate Iva Miller and great fame as America's premier athlete
Warner's Carlisle teams were among the most amazing in history:
famed far annually taking on a gauntlet of Eastern powers - then the cream of collegiate football - and defeating all but one or two per year. 'Their triumphs were legendary; a 1911 victory over mighty Harvard and a 27-6 victory in 1912 army
team featuring halfback Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Extremely swift and noted for a running style that sometimes knocked opposing tacklers cold, Thorpe was an All-American in 1911 and 1912 when he scored 25 touchdowns and 198 points.
In between those two seasons, he represented his country in the Summer Olympics. Traveling with him was Carlisle teammate Louis Tewanima, a distance runner so formidable he once won a 2-mile race after running the 18 miles to Harrisburg, Pa., for the event.
But it was Thorpe who excelled in Stockholm, winning the Games most grueling events - the pentathlon and decathlon. To win the two medals that would soon be taken from him, Thorpe had to compete in 15 events - five in the pentathlon (broad jump, javelin, discus, 200 meters and 1,500 meters) and 10 in the decathlon (100 meters, broad jump, high jump, shot put, 400 meters, 110-meter hurdles, discus, javelin, pole vault and 1,500 meters).
Thorpe accumulated enough points - including 8,412.96 points in the decathlon, then a world record - to win, two golds and the admiration of a king.
In the years after his departure from Carlisle, Thorpe played six major league seasons - mostly with John McGraw's Giants - and 15 years of pro football with the Canton Bulldogs, Oorang Indians, Chicago Cardinals and others. He was the first president of the league that eventually became the NFL. Two marriages dissolved, and he filled his later years with work in Hollywood and speaking engagements.
Bill Thorpe remembers his father as "happy-go-lucky,'' a generous man with many, many friends. Grace has a different recollection.
"He really had a rather unhappy life," she said, "very sad personally,
if you think about it. His twin brother died as a child, and he never completely got over it.
"He lost his mother when he was 15, and later, when his father died, he was away at school and no one even bothered to tell him. He became an orphan, and later his own first-born son (Jim Jr.) died as a child. He married the love of his life
my mother - but she' finally left him, and so did Freeda (Bill's mother). He had a lot of sadness."
In 1913, Thorpe was stripped of his Olympic records and medals because he had received money for playing semi-pro baseball.
Although the rules of the day were -- "Basically, they used me as a guinea pig to make up the rules," Thorpe once said - the decision stood until long after his death March 28, 1953.
"The notion that he was a 'professional' at the time of the Olympics is ridiculous," Bill Thorpe said. "He competed in athletics for the sheer exhilaration of it. He was a natural athlete and he just loved doing it - all of it. He grew up in the country, breaking wild horses and playing a kind of follow-the-leader game with the other boys, in which they all learned to excel at a lot of different things."
The records and medals were restored in 1982 through the efforts of the Thorpe family and others - notably Robert Wheeler, who became president of the Jim Thorpe Foundation and author of the book Thorpe, World's Greatest Athlete.
"I asked him about it once," Grace said, "and all he said was, 'I never wrote a letter to anyone trying to get them back.'
"But his eyes burned when he said it, and it obviously bothered him all of his life. When the metals were finally restored, we all had a great feeling of accomplishment."
The breakup of her parents' marriage, Grace says, was an early manifestation of a now-familiar syndrome.
"Let's just say that a profession athlete does not usually make a great husband," she said. "On the road, he would go out and drink with the others after a game -
so did McGraw for that matter - and because they were famous men, there were always women available. It was just tough an my mom, and she' finally ended it."
Thorpe's relationship with John McGraw was never easy either, and his career with the Giants ended because - take your pick - he drank too much and was not ready to play; McGraw wanted him to give up football; or, the relationship ended one day when Thorpe chased McGraw around the field after the famous manager called him a "dumb Indian."
Grace Thorpe simply remembers that, "McGraw's wife, Blanche, was very kind to my mother and remained her friend for years.''
As far her father, she said, "He didn't talk much normally, and you had to pull things out of him.
"He was an honest, serious man ... stoic, ...who worked hard to take care of his family. The most money he ever made a- an athlete was maybe $10,000 - it's ridiculous what they make today - and there were always financial needs."
At the moment, Grace Thorpe's world revolves around making sure that the 1950 vote holds true for the century.
"Well, he never had a big PR machine back when he was alive," she
said, or he might have made more money flow. Right now I'm it - a 77-year-old lady livin' on Social Security. But I get a lot of mail.
"The other day, a guy from Japan sent me a book he wrote about my dad. It looks good, but it's written in Japanese, so I realy can't read it."She also has received a call from Tom NcNabb, author of Donovan's Run. Who is working on a new book.
"The hero of the book is a black track star," she said, "trying to win the greatest race of his life.
"Running against the ghost of Jim Thorpe."
News From Indian Country
November 6, 1999
Nammys' Jim Thorpe Sports Award
By Suzanne Westerly
Albuquerque, NM (NFIC)
The first award given at NAMA was the Jim Thorpe Sports Award, presented to the Iroquois National lacrosse team. The Iroquois are the only Indigenous nation worldwide participating in international sports competition. They continue the Iroquois tradition of excellence in lacrosse.
The award was presented by Grace Thorpe, daughter of Jim Thorpe.
Jim Thorpe, Sac and Fox of the Thunder Clan, is the only American athlete ever to excel at three major sports: track and field, football, and baseball. Wathahuck (Brightpath) was voted "Athlete of the first Half of the Century" by the Associated Press almost fifty years ago.
At the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, King Gustav V of Sweden said, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world." when he awarded two gold medals to Jim Thorpe for winning the pentathlon and the decathlon.
Thorpe played in major league baseball, and was a founding father of national football as well as the first President of the American Professional Football Association, presently known as the National Football League.
Thorpe was named America's Greatest All Around Athlete in 1950 by the Associated Press and in 1977 by Sport Magazine. He is in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame; Professional Football Hall of Fame; Helms Professional Football Hall of Fame; National Indian Hall of Fame; and in the Pennsylvania and the Oklahoma Halls of Fame.
Grace Thorpe is spearheading a campaign to declare Jim Thorpe "America's Greatest All-Around Athlete of the Century." Grace travels around the country to Indian ceremonies and environmental gatherings, asking people to sign her two petitions - one declaring her father athlete of the century and another for a ban on nuclear activities on tribal lands.
Grace is the director of the National Environmental Coalition of Native Americans, which fights efforts to dump nuclear waste on Native lands.
Sunday Times (London)
September 19, 1999
Thorpe restored to land of giants
Jim Thorpe, the Olympic champion stripped of his medal.
by Dave Hannigan email@example.com
Stripped of Olympic gold, Jim Thorpe did not live to see his hard-won medals
returned to his family
At the junction of Joe Boyle Circle and Route 903, three flags stand silent
sentry over the tomb of Jim Thorpe. On each side of a rectangular mausoleum
hewn from 20 tonnes of granite, images echoing the cadences of his life are
carved into relief. Amid the poses of an athlete running, hurdling, jumping
and throwing, there is a baseball player at bat, an American footballer
fending off a tackle and an Indian in feathered headdress astride a horse.
Beneath them all runs the legend: "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the
world - King Gustav V, Stockholm, Sweden, 1912 Olympics."
This rustic corner of north-eastern Pennsylvania is the final resting place
of Thorpe, gold-medal winner in the decathlon and pentathlon at those Games,
outfielder on the New York Giants team that lost the 1917 baseball World
Series, storied contributor to what is now the National Football League and
American Indian. When the Associated Press held a vote in 1950 to establish
the athlete of the half-century, Thorpe polled nearly twice as heavily as
his nearest challengers, Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey. In the pantheon, this
is the kind of company he keeps, but his legend has a lustre all its own.
The monument that hints at the range of his prowess can never capture the
tumult of his existence. His response to the Swedish monarch's sweeping
encomium had been a simple and charming: "Thanks, King", but six months
later it emerged that Thorpe had flouted the Olympic amateur ideal and he
was stripped of his medals. It would take his sons and daughters until 1982
to have his good name restored and, by then, 29 years had elapsed since
their father's passing. He died an alcoholic, living in a California trailer
Even his posthumous 2,500-mile journey cross-country from the West Coast to
this grave at the southern edge of the Pocono Mountains was besmirched by
controversy. After a couple of failed negotiations, Thorpe's third wife,
Patricia Askew, eventually sold his remains to the twin communities of Mauch
Chunk and East Mauch Chunk for cash, and an assurance that they would
commemorate him suitably. The towns amalgamated, rechristened their new
conurbation Jim Thorpe and hoped their investment in a famous corpse and a
resonant name would prove a tourist attraction.
This particular muggy Thursday afternoon in high summer, there are no other
daytrippers to puncture the air of serenity and calm surrounding the plot,
just the nagging, intrusive thought of Indian folklore. According to Sac and
Fox tradition, Thorpe will never be at peace until his body is laid to rest,
attended by appropriate ceremony, back in his native Oklahoma. Until then,
his soul is doomed to wander, his spiritual dislocation one more metaphor
for his troubled life. ON A May morning in 1887, moments after giving birth
to the first of twin boys, Charlotte Vieux Thorpe watched the sun streak
through her family's one-room hickory cabin and named her son Wa-Tho-Huck. A
bright path lit up at night by a bolt of lightning, the lyrical translation
of his Indian appellation, was a portentous sign about the child the rest of
the world would come to know as James Francis Thorpe. His father Hiram, the
grandson of an Irish immigrant who had married an Indian, peddled whiskey,
traded horses and turned his hand to whatever else he could to keep his
family. In the Oklahoma Territory of the time, theirs was a typical frontier
From an early age, the precocious Jim mastered the lasso and, by the age
of 15, it was said there was no wild horse he could not catch, saddle and
ride. Reared on a diet of trapping and hunting, his preference for the
outdoors over the classroom at the local Indian agency school brought him
into constant conflict with his father. When his twin brother Charlie died
of pneumonia in 1898, Jim attempted to eschew formal education altogether
and throughout his teens he spent intermittent spells running away from home
until his father eventually enrolled him at Carlisle Indian College in
Under the stewardship of Lieutenant Richard Henry Pratt, Carlisle was a
strict institution, the expressed purpose of which was to teach Indian
children the ways of the white man. In doing so, they sought to eradicate as
much of the Indians' native heritage as they could. Yet it was here that
Thorpe's athletic promise, which had first presented itself in impromptu
games of prairie baseball back on the reservation, came to prominence.
His lithe frame and blinding speed made him an instant track and field star,
the unorthodox way of his youth lending itself to his new career. Every
Indian hunter developed the ability to mimic the movement of a prey and
Thorpe reapplied this talent to his new pursuit, throwing a javelin to
Olympic standard after a couple of hours studying others do it.
Having made his name in athletics, Thorpe took up American football for the
first time, soon conquering the discipline with such elan that his momentous
impact turned Carlisle into something of a powerhouse. To underline his
versatility, he began spending summers playing baseball in Rocky Mount, east
Carolina, for $ 2 a game. It was normal practice for college athletes to
dabble in semi-pro competitions, but most had the wherewithal to preserve
their amateur status by doing so under assumed names. Even if the vast
American continent had not yet been shrunk by technology, Thorpe's failure
to adopt a pseudonym was to prove the mistake that defined his life.
The adulation he received in Rocky Mount during the baseball season
persuaded him against returning to school in the autumn of 1909 and some of
the personal problems that would dog his later years manifested themselves
for the first time. During that winter back home in Oklahoma he began
drinking to excess and, bereft of the regimen offered by Carlisle, he
started to drift. Eventually, his coach, Pop Warner, lured him back with the
prospect of more football campaigns, and his athletic career also gathered
increased momentum. By the summer of 1912, he was part of the American team
heading for the fifth Olympiad in Sweden.
IN UNDERSTANDING how just about every facet of Jim Thorpe's life comes
suffused by myth and laced with contention, his passage to Stockholm is a
cogent example. According to some eye-witness testimony, Thorpe was the most
diligent athlete aboard the USS Finland during that journey, constantly
pounding his way around the little cork track that had been laid out on the
ship's deck. Yet, in the newspapers of the day, there are reports of him
whiling away most of the trip asleep in his hammock, reluctant to let
over-use dissipate his natural gifts.
Whatever the truth about his training methods, Thorpe arrived in Sweden in
the condition of his life and put down a marker on his first day of
competition. The modicum of fame afforded by his achievements with the
Carlisle football team had burdened him with a favourite's tag that he was
anxious to justify. The pentathlon began with the running broad (long) jump
and Thorpe leapt 23ft to an easy victory. He recovered from a less
impressive fourth place in the javelin to win the 200m dash by the narrowest
of margins, and from that point on he was peerless. He hurled the discus
over 116ft, three feet farther than his nearest challenger, before cantering
to victory in the 1500m.
His appetite for competition was not sated by taking gold and he used his
rest days before the start of the decathlon to participate in the high jump
and long jump, finishing a creditable fourth and seventh in the respective
events. Perhaps it was fatigue due to his overambition, or maybe the
incessant rain that fell all through the first day of the decathlon, but
Thorpe struggled in the opening two events. Third in the 100m, he was more
disappointed by his second in his speciality running broad jump. It took a
momentous shot putt of more than 42ft to re-establish his supremacy, and
that first place meant he started the second day 245 points ahead of the
With the weather improving considerably, Thorpe reached new levels of
consistency. First in the high jump, fourth in the 400m, no other Olympic
decathlete would come close to matching his winning time of 15.6sec in the
110m hurdles until 1948. After finishing second in the discus, third in the
javelin and third in the pole vault, the gold was his even before he shaved
four seconds off his pentathlon time for the 1500m in the final discipline.
He had scored 8,412 points out of a possible 10,000, 700 clear of Hugo
Weislander, the second-placed Swede. Along with his second medal, he was
garlanded with a bust of King Gustav, a silver chalice from the Czar of
Russia and a worldwide reputation.
Upon his return to America, Thorpe received a letter of congratulation from
the White House and, ignoring myriad offers from professional sports
franchises to cash in on his new celebrity, he returned to school for the
greatest football season of his college career. Bulwarking Carlisle on the
way to victories over more established schools like Brown and Syracuse, it
was after a triumph over West Point that The New York Times dubbed him "the
athletic marvel of the age". One particularly deft Thorpe sidestep that
December afternoon caused two Army players to collide and one of them,
Dwight D Eisenhower, suffered a broken nose. The same year Thorpe died of a
heart attack, Eisenhower became president.
A COUPLE of days after the Army game, Thorpe was spotted in training by a
coach from the old Carolina League, who mentioned his semi-pro baseball past
to a reporter named Roy Johnson. For weeks, Johnson sat on the story before
finally breaking it in January 1913. That he was merely guilty of the same
offence as hundreds of other amateur athletes did not prove sufficient
defence for Thorpe, who was immediately ordered to hand back his medals and
all the other gifts that had been lavished on him in Sweden.
"I was simply an Indian schoolboy and I did not know about such things,"
Thorpe wrote in a letter of appeal which Pop Warner is alleged to have
dictated to him. "I did not know I was doing wrong because I was doing what
I knew several other college men had done."
That missive was effectively an admission of guilt which absolved Thorpe's
coach, his school and the Amateur Athletic Union of any blame in the affair.
To some, the Indian was a convenient scapegoat precluding the sort of
further investigation that might unearth a host of other transgressions. A
lucrative professional baseball contract with the New York Giants broke
Thorpe's initial fall from grace, but it was American football where he
would make the biggest splash.
His influence as a player up until the age of 42 was such that, at the
American Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, a statue of Thorpe is the
first thing a visitor sees. Once that career had ended, however, he led an
undulating existence. He went through three marriages and a succession of
jobs, from being in charge of casting Indian characters in Western films to
digging ditches. He sold the film rights to his life story for $ 1,500, and
even did a stint as a merchant marine, seeking perhaps to replicate one last
time the discipline he had enjoyed at school.
"My dad was never a great talker but it was obvious for sure the medals
thing always hurt him. Sometimes you could just see the sadness in his
eyes," Grace Thorpe says. "He had his problems with alcohol and, despite all
the sporting glory, he did have a very unhappy personal life. Losing his
twin brother affected him so badly that he always claimed he had inherited
some of his energy and strength from Charlie. Then, both his parents died
while he was still a teenager and his own first child, Jim Junior, died at
the age of two. His life was something of a Greek tragedy."
The Thorpe family's campaign to get their father's Olympic medals back, and
his records restored, was achieved in October 1982, culminating in a moving
ceremony at a Los Angeles hotel in 1983. For decades, their cause had been
hindered by the fact that Avery Brundage, the long-time president of the
International Olympic Committee, was reckoned to hold a grudge against
Thorpe since he had finished a disappointing sixth in the 1912 pentathlon.
Having seen the power of concerted effort, Grace Thorpe has taken up the
cudgels again. She now divides her time between working to keep nuclear
waste off Indian land and endeavouring to have her father voted athlete of
the century. She is nearly 80 and ill-health has forced her to cut back on
travelling, so she has taken her electioneering to the Internet. Already,
there have been resolutions moved on Thorpe's behalf in both the US Senate
and House of Representatives.
"I just want people to remember him because he was a very special person,"
Grace Thorpe says. "Six months before he died, I left him at a bus-stop in
New York City. He was standing there in front of the local cinema under a
sign advertising the film Jim Thorpe, All-American, starring Burt Lancaster.
Dad was wearing a cowboy hat, a suede jacket with tassles on, and he had an
old, scarred leather satchel thrown over his shoulder. Everyone was staring
at him, but then everyone was always staring at him for one reason or
With the slightest catch in her voice, she spoke his epitaph.
Copyright 1999 Times Newspapers Limited