"Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world."
King Gustav V of Sweden
Born in Oklahoma Territory in 1888, Jim Thorpe was a member of the Sac and Fox tribe. Prophetically named Wa-tho-huck (Bright Path) by his mother, he was to permanently emblazon his name, in the letters of gold, upon the pages of the sporting world's ledger of champions. No athlete has ever surpassed his genius for versatility. Besides being the mightiest all-around football and track and field competitor in history and a Major League baseball player, he was the captain of the Carlisle Indian school basketball team, playing all positions. He was a member of the school's lacrosse team, and it's acknowledged superior tennis and handball player. He could bowl in the 200's and shoot golf in the 70's, although he seldom played. He was a fine swimmer and a standout in billiards. Gymnastics, rowing, hockey and figure skating round out the known list of sports in which he excelled. Because of his early environment, he was well versed in marksmanship, hunting, fishing, archery and general forest lore. As if to prove the point, Jim was even a dance champion.
The only one ever to win the ten-event Olympic Decathlon and five-event Pentathlon, Jim remembers the presentation of the gold medals by King
Gustav V of Sweden as the proudest moment in his life. It was then that the King proclaimed, "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world." Less then [sic - than] one year later, he was stripped of his awards when it was revealed that while a student at Carlisle Indian School, he played summer baseball for expense money. The Amateur Athletic Union ruled: "Ignorance of the definition of professionalism is no excuse."
Seventy years later, armed with information gathered for the Jim Thorpe biography and additional research findings from the Library of Congress, the Jim Thorpe Foundation uncovered evidence that proved Jim's disqualification was illegal and rendered invalid, thereby correcting what had been called by many "the greatest injustice in sports history."
All quotations from: Jim Thorpe, World's Greatest Athlete by Robert W. Wheeler, University of Oklahoma Press.
1888: Born near Prague, Oklahoma, May 28, 1888.
1911: 1st Team All-America, Football
1912: Proclaimed "The Greatest Athlete in the World" by King Gustav V of Sweden.
1912: King Gustav V presented Jim the Laurel Wreath, Gold Medal and Life-size Bronze Bust of the King for Pentathlon victory.
1912: King Gustav V presented Jim the Laurel Wreath, Gold Medal and a jeweled 30-pound Silver Chalice, lined in gold, in the shape of a Viking ship for Decathlon victory.
1912: 1st team, All-America, Football.
1913: Amateur Athletic Union judged Jim to be a professional, secured the return of his Olympic gold medals and trophies and eliminated his record.
1919: Elected first president of the American Professional Football Association, later named the National Football League.
1920: Elected president of the National Football League.
1922: Granted approval for the formation of an All-Indian Professional Football Team, "The Oorang Indians"
1938: Named to Knute Rockne, Grantland Rice and "Hurry Up" Yost's "All-Time" All-American Teams.
1943: Named to Clark Shaughnessay's "Eternal" All-American Team.
1950: Voted Greatest Football Player of the half-century by the Associated Press.
1950: Voted Greatest Male Athlete of the half-century by the Associated Press.
1950: Elected to Helms Hall College and Professional Football Halls of Fame.
1951: Dedication of tablet monument in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
1951: Elected to National Football College Hall of Fame.
1951: World premiere of Jim Thorpe—All-American, a film based on Jim's life, starring Burt Lancaster.
1953: Dedication of Jim Thorpe Stadium, Shawnee, Oklahoma.
1953: Died March 28, 1953, Lomita, California.
1955: N.F.L.'s "Most Valuable Player" award named "The Jim Thorpe Trophy".
1957: Dedication of Jim Thorpe Memorial Mausoleum in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania formerly Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk. Around the mound encircling the mausoleum, samples of earth from Jim's birthplace, Carlisle Indian School, New York's Polo Grounds and Olympic Stadium in Sweden were scattered. The high school was also renamed after him.
1958: Elected to the National Indian Hall of Fame in Anadarko, Oklahoma.
1961: Elected to Pennsylvania Hall of Fame.
1961: Voted "World's Greatest Athlete" by the editors of El Universal, Caracas, Venezuela.
1963: Enshrined as a charter member in the National Professional Football Hall of Fame, Canton, Ohio. Later, a statue of him was dedicated at the entrance of the building.
1975: Enshrined in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame of the United States of America, Charleston, West Virginia.
1977: Voted "The Greatest American Football Player in History" in a national poll conducted by Sport Magazine.
1982: Founding of the Jim Thorpe Foundation dedicated to the restoration of the Olympic Awards of Jim Thorpe and the education of the public about his accomplishments.
1982: Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee votes unanimously to restore Jim's Olympic gold medals.
1984: Jim Thorpe commemorative stamp issued by the United States Postal Service.
1986: Jim Thorpe Award first presented to honor the best defensive back in college football.
1992: Jim Thorpe Pro Sports Awards premiered on national television to honor the greatest athletes in the world.
1995: Jim Thorpe Bright Path Youth Program established in Oklahoma City to promote academic and physical programs designed to build confidence, self-esteem and positive direction.
1996: After a four year service-learning project by students of Carbon County Area Vocational Technical School, the improved monument is rededicated.
[Photo captions, counterclockwise top to bottom, read]
· Jim Thorpe 1917
· Jim Thorpe was famous for his punts and drop kicks.
· Jim Thorpe running for Carlisle track team against Lafayette, 1909.
· Thorpe with the New York Giants, 1917.
· Jim Thorpe Commemorative stamp issued by the United States Postal Service in 1984.
Renovation Project Completed By The Students Of The
Carbon County Area Vocational Technical School,