I love the Olympics, I absolutely love them.
The thrill of the games, the competition, the amazing physical feats, the athletes and the heartwarming stories that so often accompany the games suck me into all the hype.
Every couple of years when the Olympics roll around, I think that I am not going to get caught up again, but yet I do.
An Olympic Road Trip Right Here In Alabama
This year, the start of the games reminded me that north Alabama is home to a museum and park honoring one of the greatest Olympic legends of all time, Jesse Owens.
It’s well worth a day trip.
Jesse Owens was a four-time gold medalist in the 1936 Olympics winning gold in 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump and 4-by-100 relay and was the most successful athlete of the games.
The games were played in Berlin and Owens’ performance gained him international fame as his performance was credited with “single-handedly crushing Adolf Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy” and embarrassing the German leader.
Owens’ Olympic fame came after a stellar track and field career at Ohio State University, where he was affectionately referred to as the “Buckeye Bullet”. He won a record-setting eight individual NCAA championship titles over two consecutive years, with four in 1935 and four in 1936. No other athlete won four NCAA championships in one year until 2006, and no athletes have won eight in a career to this date.
A part of these records is known as “the greatest 45 minutes ever in sports” where Owens set three world records and tied a fourth in a span of 45 minutes in 1935.
This event has never been equaled.
James Cleveland Owens was born the last of ten kids on September 12, 1913, in the tiny town of Oakville, Alabama. Owens’ family moved north to Ohio when he was nine years old. He received his nickname when a teacher misunderstood his pronunciation of his initials, J.C. Owens, as Jesse Owens because of his strong southern accent.
Even though his track and field career happened outside of Alabama, the state still remembers and celebrates the athlete fondly, especially in the tiny town of Oakville, which is home to the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum.
You can learn the history of Jesse Owens, tour the very small farmhouse where the Owens’ family lived (and wonder how so many people fit in such a small house).
Most notably, you can see an actual long jump course and marvel at his world record setting jump of 26 feet, 8 1/4 inches, which appears to be an impossible distance to jump. Then, try the jump yourself and see how you measure up to one of the greatest Olympians of all time.
The museum is located at 7019 Lawrence County Road 203, Danville, AL (the postal location), and is open varying hours, seven days a week.
You can find more information at jesseowensmemorialpark.com.