Defending Jim Thorpe's Athletic Legacy
Grace's Fight for her father
"Many people have asked me how Dad felt about the American Athletic Association making Dad return awards, trophies, etc. from the 1912 Olympics. I asked him this question also, as near as I can remember this is what happened. He kinda shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and said; Everyone was more upset than I was, I didn't care about the honors-awards....I would have liked the trophies though. Guess Dad felt the sense of achievement was enough for him. Competing athletes knew the world knew, Dad knew he won the 1912 Olympics."
Grace Thorpe’s father, Jim Thorpe, was a successful American Indian athlete. He made it to the 1912 Olympics and competed in track and field. He won both the decathlon and the pentathlon becoming the first athlete to do so. However, his medals were taken away from him because of a mistake he made some years before. The Olympics had a rule that only allowed amateur athletes to compete in the Olympics. Jim entered the Olympics as an amateur track and field athlete, but it was discovered that in 1909 he was paid to play for the Rocky Mount Railroaders, a professional baseball team in North Carolina. As a result of his stint with the Railroaders, Jim’s medals were taken away. Beginning in the late 1960’s Grace began fighting for her father’s medals to be returned to him. She gave several speeches and speaking engagements explaining who her father was as a person and an athlete. Eventually, in 1983 Jim Thorpe’s status was reestablished and his medals returned to him. In 1988 the International Olympic Committee officially changed its rules allowing professional athletes to compete in the Olympics.