TNT EXCLUSIVE: Jim Thorpe is a legend amongst today’s superstars

Written By Guest User, Posted on July 7, 2020

During the 1912 Olympics, Thorpe represented the United States as an enrolled member of the Sac and Fox Nation. At the time, Native Americans were not legally recognized as full U.S. citizens, only gaining full rights in 1924 through the Indian Citizenship Act. Alongside the lack of rights, bigotry against the indigenous people was rampant and systematic, with news openly involving derogatory statements and stereotypes.

In the context of this environment, Thorpe became a celebrated figure both locally and abroad, in many ways helping push forward the cause of genuine equality and acceptance. 

Yet just a year later, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in 1913 stripped would go on to remove his gold medals, because Thorpe previously was paid around $15 a week ($380 today) for playing semi-pro baseball before participating in the Olympics. The AAU falsely claimed this made him a professional athlete in a competition reserved for amateurs, despite his baseball league is hardly professional.

By taking away his medals, the AAU turned Thorpe, in the eyes of the public, into a malicious cheater. Thorpe died in 1953, but the defamation against would continue for years.  Attitudes changed as the decades rolled by, with The International Olympic Committee restoring Thorpe’s medals in 1982. But the athletes who finished second to Thorpe are still listed as co-recipients of Olympic gold medals.

The Jim Thorpe Award was first presented in 1986, and is named after thr legendary athlete and Oklahoma Native. It was conceived by former Oklahoma City talk show host, Ed Sossen, and former Jim Thorpe Association (now Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame) Executive Director, W. Lynne Draper, as a way to positively promote Oklahoma in a national light.

The Paycom Jim Thorpe Award is universally accepted as one of the nation’s top collegiate sports honors, and is presented to individual athletes based on performance on the field, athletic ability and character. Paycom Software, Inc. (“Paycom”) (NYSE:PAYC), a leading provider of comprehensive, cloud-based human capital management software, and the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame jointly announced in May of 2017 an exclusive sponsorship of the Jim Thorpe Award. As a result, the accolade is named the “Paycom Jim Thorpe Award.”

In a TNT Exclusive with the Jim Thorpe Museum Caretaker, Ashley Scott, who has been volunteering for over five years, Scott actively helps with the Facebook page. She responds to online communications with the media and the public. She also used to work on-site and give tours, Though the museum is currently not providing many tours due to COVID-19.

TNT: What is the history of the Jim Thorpe Home? 


In 1917, Jim Thorpe bought a home in Yale, Oklahoma and lived there with his first wife, Iva Miller, until 1923. He purchased the house with the money he made from selling his Indian allotment. When they moved there, they had a little boy and another baby on the way. 

They moved to Yale because, at the time, Jim was travelling playing professional sports, which made it difficult for Iva to follow him. She also had a family that lived nearby. Sadly, their firstborn, James F Thorpe (Jr.), died during the 1918 flu epidemic at three years old. 

They would have three girls after Jim Jr –,  Gail, Charlotte, and Grace. All of the children from this union have passed away. You can visit the home, which is presented much like how they lived in it, including authentic artifacts from their life then. Many of the items were donated by the late Iva Miller (Iva Miller Thorpe Davies) when the home was being prepared as a museum.

TNT: What is the history behind the story of when Jim Thorpe’s shoes were stolen at the Olympics?


The story of Jim Thorpe’s mismatched shoes is quite impressive. It is said that before the 1912 Olympics, Thorpe’s shoes disappeared. Some say they were stolen. In any event, he found some footwear in the garbage so that he could compete. They were each a different size. Even so, he became the first American Indian to win Olympic gold for the United States.

TNT: Where is Jim Thorpe’s Family today? 

Jim Thorpe’s first wife, Iva, and their four children are all laid to rest about 15 miles from Yale, Oklahoma, at Harrell Cemetery near Cushing, Oklahoma. Jim Thorpe had three sons with his second wife, and the last one still alive is Richard Thorpe of Waurika, Oklahoma. There are many grandchildren and other relatives around Oklahoma and other states.

TNT: There has been overwhelming support for Jim’s Olympic records to be reinstated, Do you think this has been overshadowed or ignored for far too long? 


I do think it is well deserved and overdue. They’ve done all but correct the records. I don’t understand what the hold up is. I agree with what Congresswoman Haaland said.

“Any person who has represented our country honourably and brought victory home for the United States in Olympics is an American hero and should be recognized as one, but inherent biases took away that honour from Jim Thorpe. This resolution not only recognizes Jim Thorpe for the hero that he is, but it also ensures that the records reflect his incredible achievements,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland.

TNT: What would you tell the millennials and other generations to follow about Jim James Thorpe? 

Jim Thorpe was featured in 2001 Wheaties Box

Jim Thorpe was featured in 2001 Wheaties Box

Jim Thorpe’s story is of great historical value to everyone, but especially the accounts of his native American heritage.

Like most other native American children, Jim Thorpe and his twin brother Charles were forced to go live at a boarding school at age six. Also, like many other native children at those schools, Charles died from complications after contracting smallpox at age 9. This was just the beginning of heartbreak and trials for the world’s greatest athlete.

TNT: Do they celebrate or honour Jim Thorpe in his home community?


At this time, there is not an annual celebration of Jim Thorpe in Yale, Oklahoma. The Yale Chamber of Commerce attempted to start a celebration this year, but it was rescheduled because of COVID-19 and eventually postponed due to inclement weather. There is the beautiful Jim Thorpe Park and of course the museum.

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