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"Mobituaries": The Final Resting Place of Sports Superstar Jim Thorpe

Updated: Oct 29

Video from CBS Sunday Morning

"Mobituaries": The Final Resting Place of Sports Superstar Jim Thorpe

Correspondent Mo Rocca investigates how Jim Thorpe, once celebrated as America's greatest athlete, ended up buried in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, a town in which he never set foot. [Don't miss Rocca's podcast "Mobituaries," available wherever you stream or download your podcasts.] "CBS News Sunday Morning" features stories on the arts, music, nature, entertainment, sports, history, science and Americana, and highlights unique human accomplishments and achievements. Check local listings for CBS News Sunday Morning broadcast times.

Jim Thorpe

Native American Jim Thorpe won the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics but was stripped of his gold medals for violating amateur eligibility rules.


Who Was Jim Thorpe?

An All-American in football at the Carlisle Indian School, Jim Thorpe won the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics before his gold medals were revoked on a technicality. Thorpe played professional baseball and football, and sought an acting career after retiring from sports.

Early Years and Schools

Jim Thorpe was born circa May 28, 1887, near current-day Prague, Oklahoma. A child of Sac and Fox and Potawatomi Indian bloodlines, as well as French and Irish roots, he was given the name Wa-Tho-Huk, meaning "Bright Path," but christened Jacobus Franciscus Thorpe.

Thorpe learned to hunt and trap prey at an early age, developing his legendary endurance via extensive excursions through Indian Territory. His aversion to the classroom was exacerbated by the early deaths of his twin brother and both parents, and his stints at the Haskell Institute in Kansas, the local Garden Grove school and the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania were marked by long bouts of truancy.

As a student at Carlisle in the spring of 1907, Thorpe joined a track-and-field practice session on campus. Clad in his work clothes, he launched himself over a 5'9" high bar to break the school record, catching the attention of coach Pop Warner. Thorpe soon became the star of the track program, and with his athletic skills he also enjoyed success in baseball, hockey, lacrosse and ballroom dancing.

However, it was football that propelled Thorpe to national renown. Starring as a halfback, place kicker, punter and defender, Thorpe led his team to a surprise victory over top-ranked Harvard in November 1911, and fueled a blowout of West Point a year later. Carlisle went a combined 23-2-1 over the 1911-12 seasons, with Thorpe garnering All-American honors both times..." from the article: Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe Is Restored as Sole Winner of 1912 Olympic Gold Medals

"Thorpe, one of the greatest athletes in history, was stripped of his decathlon and pentathlon titles for violating rules against professionalism.

Jim Thorpe, one of the greatest athletes in history and the victim of what many considered a century-old Olympic injustice, has been restored as the sole winner of the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Games.

Thorpe, who excelled at a dozen or more sports, had dominated his two events at the 1912 Games in Stockholm but was stripped of his medals after it emerged that he had earned a few dollars briefly playing professional baseball before his Olympic career. American officials, in what historians considered a blend of racism against Thorpe, who was a Native American, and a fanatical devotion to the idea of amateurism, were among the loudest proponents of his disqualification.

The International Olympic Committee’s recognition of Thorpe, announced on Friday, comes 40 years after it declared him the co-winner of both events. But the restoration in 1982 was not enough for his supporters, who carried on campaigning on behalf of Thorpe, an American icon who is particularly revered in Native American communities..." from the article: Jim Thorpe Is Restored as Sole Winner of 1912 Olympic Gold Medals


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