The son of a Sac and Fox Indian father and a Potawatami Indian mother, Jim Wa-Tho-Huk Thorpe was born in Oklahoma in 1888. A natural athlete, he overcame family tragedies and personal hardships to become a star in not one, but three sports, and to win two Olympic gold medals.
He first gained recognition at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, where he gave outstanding performances on the track and field and football teams. His coach there, Pop Warner, was instrumental in getting Jim to the 1912 Olympics in Sweden, where he stunned the crowd and his competitors by winning gold medals in both the decathlon and the pentathlon. Upon presenting Jim with his medals and trophies, King Gustav of Sweden proclaimed him “the greatest athlete in the world!”
Despite losing his Olympic medals and status due to an innocent mistake, Jim continued to excel athletically, playing professionally in both baseball and football. He was named to the National Indian Football Hall of Fame, the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Today, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award is called the Jim Thorpe Trophy. In 1984, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in his honor. Jim Thorpe, the Legend Remembered tells the young reader all about Thorpe’s remarkable life; although he died in 1953, his accomplishments still teach the valuable lesson of perseverance.