Monday, March 28, 2016

Athlete Jim Thorpe Dies in Lomita Trailer Park 1953


James Francis "Jim" Thorpe (Sac and Fox (Sauk): Wa-Tho-Huk, translated as "Bright Path"; May 22, 1887 – March 28, 1953) was a Sac and Fox athlete of Native American and European ancestry. Considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern sports, he won Olympic gold medals in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, played American football (collegiate and professional), and also played professional baseball and basketball. He lost his Olympic titles after it was found he was paid for playing two seasons of semi-professional baseball before competing in the Olympics, thus violating the amateurism rules that were then in place. In 1983, 30 years after his death, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) restored his Olympic medals.



Thorpe grew up in the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma. He played as part of several all American Indian teams throughout his career, and "barnstormed" as a professional basketball player with a team composed entirely of American Indians.



From 1920 to 1921, Thorpe was nominally the first president of the American Professional Football Association (APFA), which would become the National Football League (NFL) in 1922.

He played professional sports until age 41, the end of his sports career coinciding with the start of the Great Depression. Thorpe struggled to earn a living after that, working several odd jobs. Thorpe suffered from alcoholism, and lived his last years in failing health and poverty.

In a poll of sports fans conducted by ABC Sports, Thorpe was voted the Greatest Athlete of the Twentieth Century out of 15 other athletes including Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth, Jesse Owens, Wayne Gretzky, Jack Nicklaus, and Michael Jordan.



Thorpe was memorialized in the Warner Bros. film Jim Thorpe – All-American (1951) starring Burt Lancaster, with Billy Gray performing as Thorpe as a child. The film was directed by Michael Curtiz. Although there were rumors that Thorpe received no money, he was paid $15,000 by Warner Bros. plus a $2,500 donation toward an annuity for him by the studio head of publicity.



Death

In early 1953, Thorpe went into heart failure for the third time while dining with Patricia in their home in a Lomita, California trailer park. He was briefly revived by artificial respiration and spoke to those around him, but lost consciousness shortly afterward and died on March 28 at the age of 65.

Thorpe's body was lying in state at Fairview Cemetery in Shawnee, Oklahoma, after citizens had paid to have it moved there by train from California. The people were in a fund raising effort to erect a permanent monument and burial place for Thorpe at the town's Athletic Park. Local officials had asked the state legislature for funding but were turned down so they doubled their efforts to raise the money on their own. Meanwhile, Thorpe's third wife, unbeknownst to the rest of his family, "stole" Thorpe's body and had it shipped to Pennsylvania when she heard that the small Pennsylvania towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk were seeking to attract business. She made a deal with officials which, according to Thorpe's son Jack, was done by Patricia for monetary considerations. The towns bought Thorpe's remains, erected a monument to him, merged, and renamed the newly united town in his honor Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania even though Thorpe had never been there. The monument site contains his tomb, two statues of him in athletic poses, and historical markers describing his life story.





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