Jim Thorpe

 Note.  For information on the plans for moving Jim Thorpe's body back to Oklahoma, clink on Prague Chamber of Commerce clink "Native America Reservations" and then on "Jim Thorpe Rest in Peace" website.

The Life of Jim Thorpe

The year 1987 marked the 100th anniversay of the birth of one of Oklahoma's favorite sons, Jim Thorpe. 2012 marks the 100th year since the 1912 Olympic games in which Jim Thorpe won the title of the "World's greatest athlete". proclaimed by the King of Sweden.

Early Life

On May 22, 1887, James Francis Thorpe was born to Hiram and Charlotte Thorpe on a farm near Prague, Indian Territory.  A twin brother, Charles, died ten years later while the two brothers were attending the Sac and Fox Boarding School near Stroud. 

The young Sac and Fox Indian disliked boarding school, preferring to spend his time hunting and fishing.  He was later sent to Haskell Institute, an Indian vocational school in Kansas.  Thorpe attended Haskell until 1900 when he returned home to help run the family farm. 

Carlisle Institute 

In 1904, Jim Thorpe was sent to the Carlisle Institute, and Indian school in Pennsylvania.  At Carlisle the legendary athletic coach, Glenn "Pop" Warner, discovered that the young Thorpe excelled at any sport he attempted, especially football and track.  In 1908, Thorpe made Walter Camp's All-American Team when Carlisle defeated such teams as Navy, Penn State, and Syracuse.  In 1909 Thorpe turned in one of his most impressive track and field scores by winning six of seven gold medals in a meet against Lafayette. 

Thorpe left Carlisle to play semi-professional baseball for two seasons, but returned to Carlisle in 1911.  During the next two football seasons Carlisle defeated such top ranked teams as Army, Pennsylvania, and Georgetown, winning a place for Thorpe on Camp's First Team All-American for both years. 

The Olympics 

Coached by "Pop" Warner, Thorpe qualified for the 1912 Olympic games held in Stockholm, Sweden.  During the games he amazed the world by winning the Decathlon and Pentathlon, becoming the only athlete in history to win both grueling track events.  Thorpe's winning performance won him accolades from such people as the King of Sweden and the Czar of Russia.

Thorpe returned to the United States to bask in national glory, but it lasted only six months.  In January, 1913, it was divulged that Thorpe had at one time played semi-professional baseball, disqualifying him as an amateur athlete.  His Olympic medals were returned and his scores were removed from the record books.  

In 1973, The American Athletic Union restored Thorpe's amateur standing for the years prior to the 1912 Olypic Games.  In 1983, the International Olympic Committee returned copies of his medals to the family and his Olympic records were reinstated in the record books.  

Later Achievements 

Following the Olympic Games Thorpe entered professional sports, playing baseball for the New York Giants, Cincinnati Reds and Boston Braves.  In 1915, Thorpe entered the sport of professional football and became the first president of the Professional Football League. It was during this time that a fellow player described Thorpe as "an oak tree doing a hundred yards in ten seconds."

After his retirement from professional sports in 1929, Thorpe held a variety of jobs.  For a while he worked in motion pictures playing a number of minor roles and was much in demand as a lecturer.  He also contributed much of his time to the promotion of youth athletics.  

James Francis Thorpe died on March 28, 1953, in Lomita, California.  He was buried in Mauch Chunk, later named Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. 

                                                                              The Oklahoma Historical Society 

 

Jim Thorpe's Gold Medal Performances at the

1912 Olympic Games, Stockholm, Sweden

Pentathlon

                          200 meter race-1st place...............22.9 sec.

                         1500 meter race-1st place......4 min.40.8 sec. 

                          Broad jump-1st place............23 ft. 2.7/10 in.

                          Discus-1st place..................116 ft. 8.4/10 in.

                          Javelin-3rd place...............153 ft. 2.19/20 in.

Jim Thorpe won the Pentathlon with the low score of 7 points.  For winning, he also received a bronze bust of the King of Sweden, presented to him by the King, in person, on July 15, 1912. 

Decathlon

                          1500 meter race-1st place.................4 min. 40.1 sec.

                          110 meter high hurdles-1st place..................15.6 sec.

                          High jump-1st place.............................6 ft.1.6/10 in.

                          Shot-put - 1st place..........................42 ft. 5.0/20 in

                          Broad jump-3rd place..........................22 ft.2.3/10 in.

                          Pole vault-3rd place..........................10 ft.7.19/20 in.

                          Discus - 3rd place.............................121 ft.3.9/10 in.

                          100 meter - 3rd place..................................11.2 sec.

                             400 meter -4th place...................................52.2 sec.

                          Javelin - 4th place...........................149 ft. 11.2/10 in.

Jim Thorpe won the Decathlon with 8,412.96 points.  (Maximum points 10,000).

He also received a jewel studded Viking Ship presented by the Emperor of Russia on July 15, 1912.

In January 1913, Jim Thorpe was ordered to hand his medals back because he admitted to playing professional baseball for $2 a day in 1909 and 1910 for living expenses.  On October 13, 1982, the International Olympic Committee agreed to restore Jim Thorpe's amateur status and return the Pentathlon and Decathlon Olympic gold medals Thorpe won on these events 75 years earlier.  Replicas were presented to his jubilant family in Los Angeles, CA on January 18, 1983.

Jim Thorpe was voted the Greatest Athlete of the First Half of the Century by the Associated Press in 1950 and also named the greatest football player.

He was named ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Century during the Superbowl pre-game show on Sunday, January 30, 2000.  The announcement was made at 2:35 P.M.

Grace Thorpe of Prague, Oklahoma, Jim's daughter stated "I think the day January 30, 2000 will be in my memories as a glorious feeling, the warm feeling is the same as when Dad got his (Olympic) medals returned.