"Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world."
— King Gustav V of Sweden, at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.
— Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe, one of America's finest athletes, never forgot his roots. Of Sac and Fox heritage, he was sent to the Carlisle (Pennsylvania), Indian Industrial School. There he showed signs of greatness in track and field and baseball. He also gained national fame in football. In 1908, Thorpe left to play pro baseball but soon returned to train for the Olympics.
At the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, Thorpe made headlines by capturing gold medals in both the decathlon and the pentathlon. Even the King of Sweden recognized his phenomenal abilities. Yet the International Olympic Committee revoked the medals for violating the Olympic ban on professional athletes—a rule that was unevenly enforced and, in Thorpe's case, smacked of racism. Thorpe became a symbol of injustice towards Native Americans.
Thorpe returned to pro baseball, playing with the New York Giants for 15 years, while simultaneously playing and coaching football. In 1920, he helped organize a forerunner of the NFL and served as its first president. Thorpe also was an actor, appearing in nearly 50 films. After retiring, he became involved in Native politics, lecturing on American Indian life.
Thorpe's medals were returned to his family in 1982.
Name: James Francis Thorpe, Wa-Tho-Huk
Born: Prague, Oklahoma, 1887–1953