A Story for MLK Day: Gerald Ford, Jesse Owens and Righting a Wrong

Submitted by BursleyHall82 on January 15th, 2018 at 10:58 AM

I shared this story last year on MLK Day, and it's worth sharing again if you haven't heard it. It's the story of how Gerald Ford and Jesse Owens - the most famous Wolverine of all time and the most famous Buckeye of all time - came together in 1976 to right a historical wrong.

Lots of fascinating facts in this article, including the tidbit that Ford (as a senior at Michigan) was in attendance at Ferry Field on the day in 1935 when Owens set four world records in the space of 45 minutes.

Enjoy the story. It'll make you feel good that you're part of this rivalry.




January 15th, 2018 at 11:24 AM ^

Jesse Owens was a transcendant athlete. Nothing, perhaps in all of sports, can approach the monumental significance of Owens winning four gold medals under the nose of Adolf Hitler in Berlin. 

But I hope and believe that the significance of the man is at least partly reflected in the fact that Michigan, his school's arch-rival, considers it a high honor that one of his finest hours occurred on our soil. And that our highest-achieving alum was the one who had the privilege of bestowing upon him the Medal of Freedom.



January 15th, 2018 at 4:17 PM ^

he was treated worse by his own country than by the Germans. He even befriended a German athlete while there.

It should also be pointed out that the Germans won the overall medal count and that the Nazis saw the Olympics as a rousing success. The continued mythologization of the Berlin Olympics has to end.

The true destruction of the Nazis notion of racial supremacy is provided by the fronts of the Red Army. An army of men the Nazis thought be subhuman and fit only to be chattel slaves.

The Nazis conception of race was different from American. Jews and Slavs were both seen as subhuman and fit only for destruction and slavery. Color wasn’t a central element of Nazi ideology.

Do remember that they were allied with the Japanese and Arab nationalists in the Middle East.


January 15th, 2018 at 5:34 PM ^

Luz Long, whose advice during the qualification round of the long jump (put a shoe a few inches short of the line and jump from there to avoid a DQ) allowed Owens to qualify easily and win in the final. Owens described a "24-carat friendship" with Long at that moment.

Honestly, though, who besides you has a burr in their saddle about the "mythologization of the Berlin Olympics?" Nobody pretends that Hitler retreated to Berchtesgaden to weep in the fetal position after Owens won a medal. The Germans clearly didn't change their course, since the War broke out three years later. But it was a great achievement and did in fact repudiate the Aryan Supremacist beliefs, whether they made a big deal of Owens' African ancestry or not. 

Sporting events have personal significance to fans, but nobody pretends that they actually change politics in general. Did the Miracle on Ice win the cold war? Is it somehow overrated because it didn't? Do you take less joy out of Michigan's recent victory in Breslin because Michigan State fans will continue to think that they're a better basketball program? 

What Owens did, in the paradigm of sports, is great. Full stop. 



January 15th, 2018 at 6:09 PM ^

Owens story is tragic because he was treated like shit when he got back.

No, it did nothing to refute Aryan superiority. Germans did not care and white Americans still thought blacks racially inferior.

Jesse Owens was a remarkable man who was treated poorly by his country because of his ethnicity. This myth about refuting Aryan superiority is a story meant to make white Americans forgot that they were closer to the Nazis in mentality than they would like to admit.

You are promoting a myth.Full stop.


January 15th, 2018 at 6:48 PM ^

This post is unfortunate. It can neither tell the difference between someone admiring a great sports story and someone propogating a "myth" for racial/political reasons, nor between the words "refute" and "repudiate."

The former is silly. The latter is an error you share with Sarah Palin. Nice work.


January 15th, 2018 at 7:53 PM ^

Your post is unfortunate. You insist on propagating a myth/story because you either are too thick headed or too narcissistic to admit your error in promoting what is a distortion of history at best. This you share with Donald Trump.

Good job.

Stick to what you know which apparently isn’t much.


January 15th, 2018 at 3:35 PM ^

I was just listening to MLK's speech and thought it was something everyone should listen to each year.  it is a speech i've listened to many, many times and yet it still inspires me each time i hear it.