"Jacobus (Jim) Franciscus Thorpe"

Jacobus Franciscus "Jim" Thorpe (Sac and Fox Nation: Wa-Tho-Huk) (May 28, 1887 March 28, 1953) is considered one of the most versatile athletes in modern sports. He won Olympic gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon, starred in college and professional football, played Major League Baseball and also had a career in basketball. He subsequently lost his Olympic titles when it was found he had played two seasons of minor league baseball prior to competing in the games (thus violating the amateur status rules). In 1983, thirty years after his death, his medals were restored.


Poem by Del "Abe" Jones - September 28, 2007

Born in May of Eighteen eighty-eight
Though the birth record is obscure
In Oklahoma, in a one room cabin
With brother Charlie, of that we're sure.

His father, Hiram, was a farmer
Mother, Mary James, a Pottawatomie
Descendant of the Chief, Black Hawk
A Warrior with an athletic history.

His Indian name of Wa-Tho-Huk
Translated meaning of "Bright Path"
As his future really seemed to be
Before the typical white man's wrath.

His twin brother passed away at nine
Then in the year, Nineteen, ought four
He attended the Carlisle Indian School
Where he learned football, track, and more.

Trained by legend, Glenn "Pop" Warner
Who had the unique insight to see
The young phenomenon evolving
Into, the great athlete, he would be.

All-American in Nineteen 0-nine
And soon, on the Olympic Team
Sailing across the sea to Sweden
The answer to many-a-youngster's dream.

He trained on board on the journey
And he must have done it very well
For he blew away his competitors
That's what, long lasting records tell.

In the Pentathlon and Decathlon
He won a Gold Medal in each
And it seemed any goal he went for
For him, would be an easy reach.

Gustav, the King of Sweden said it best
After the Nineteen twelve Olympics
"Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world."
After witnessing, Thorpe's sporting epics.

And, not one to stand on ceremony
That sometimes, great success can bring
He answered, honestly and simply
As they shook hands, and said, "Thanks, King."

But, it came out after the Olympics
He'd played some semi-pro baseball
They said his medals were illegal
And the Committee issued a recall.

His name was removed from the records
And his Gold Medals taken away
But, with style he just moved on
To play the games he loved to play.

He signed with the New York Giants
And played with the Reds in Cincinnati
Ending up with the Boston Braves
On his baseball playing odyssey.

At the same time he played football
For teams like Canton, Cleveland, and Chicago
Helped form what is now, the NFL
Which a lot of folks probably don't know.

He worked for awhile in the movies
As boss of the Chicago Park System
Involved in matters of Indian Affairs
A song and dance troupe named after him.

He was named, "the greatest football player"
By the Associated Press in Nineteen fifty
And, "the greatest overall male athlete"
One of the best that we will ever see.

In Fifty-three he had a heart attack
And on the New York Times front page
They said we'd lost, "a marvelous performer"
From this world's sporting stage.

But he was so much more than that
With his dignity and quiet grace
One of those very special people
Who have made this world a better place.

He was subjected to the racism
That, "Indian athlete" and "Redskin"
And it eventually took it's toll
Lead to poverty and alcoholism.

Thirty years after his passing
His Olympic Medals were finally restored
Along with many posthumous honors
Much too late, for his just reward.

He's just another great American
Born of the Natives of this land
Who never knew and/or never saw
Real American freedoms, take a stand.

More of Abe's work can be seen at: http://mywebpage.netscape.com/delabejones/page3.html


A sample of reference material:

The Best of the Athletic Boys: The White Man's Impact on Jim Thorpe, by Jack Newcombe, 1975.

Jim Thorpe, the Legend Remembered, by Rosemary Kissinger Updyke, 1997

In the Matter of Jacobus Franciscus Thorpe, published in The 1912 Olympic Games - Results for All Competitors in All Events, with Commentary by Bill Mallon and Ture Widlund, 2002.

The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics (Sydney 2000 Edition) by David Wallechinsky, 2000.

Jim Thorpe: The World's Greatest Athlete by Robert W. Wheeler, 2003

History Detectives: The Jim Thorpe Ticket PBS, 2005.