A portion of State Highway 36 in Lawrence County is being dedicated in honor of Oakville native and Olympian Jesse Owens, one of Alabama’s greatest athletes. An official sign dedication and reception hosted by the Board of Directors of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) is set for Thursday, June 9, 2016, at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum.
The section of the highway being renamed Jesse Owens Parkway is a portion of Highway 36 beginning at I-65 Exit 328 and ending at the Lawrence County line, just west of Danville. The Alabama Department of Transportation has installed six signs – a sign on both the north- and south-bound lanes of Interstate 65 near the Jesse Owens Parkway (Alabama Highway 36) and signs in each direction marking the section of the Alabama Highway 36 named in his honor. Two signs will also be replaced on Alabama Highway 157.
“The Board of Directors for the Jesse Owens Museum greatly appreciates the dedication in honor of Jesse Owens,” said Nancy Pinion, co-director of the Jesse Owens Museum. “We would like to thank NARCOG, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, Senator Paul Bussman, Senator Arthur Orr and the City of Hartselle for recognizing the dedication and providing funds for the signage.”
On hand for the dedication and reception set for June 9, 2016, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum will be ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl, Governor’s ARC Representative Jim Byard, Jr., ARC State Program Manager Al Jones, representatives of state and local government including Senator Paul Bussman, regional and local tourism officials and family members of Jesse Owens.
Born in 1913 in Oakville, Alabama, Jesse Owens was small and sickly as a child. As sharecropper’s, his parents could not afford to buy medicine or to pay a doctor and struggled to keep him well. By the age of six years old, he was well enough to walk the nine miles to school with his brothers and sisters. He began the transformation into an Olympic champion in high school, breaking records and setting new world records in track and field events. At Ohio State University, he sets new conference records and is considered the premier track athlete in the world where he was undefeated in 42 events, won four firsts at the Big Ten Championships, four in the NCAA Championships, and two in the NAAU Championships. At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, he captured four gold medals overcoming racial and socioeconomic barriers. In 1955, he was named Ambassador of Sports by President Eisenhower and toured the world promoting the virtues of amateur programs. He served as Eisenhower’s personal representative to the 1956 Olympic games in Melbourne, Australia. In 1970, he was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, was presented the Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford in 1976, and received the Living Legend Award in 1979 from President Jimmy Carter. He died of lung cancer on March 31, 1980, at the age of 66. For more on the life of Owens, visit www.jesseowensmemorialpark.com and click on the Bio link.