Jesse Owens: An American Life

William Joseph Baker, Author Free Press $14.95 (289p) ISBN 978-0-02-901780-7
The 10th and last child of an Alabama sharecropper, James Cleveland Owens was taken to Ohio as a child. There, while still in junior high school, he encountered a white coach who recognized his phenomenal talent and loved him like a son, a relationship that figured significantly in the athlete's racial attitudes throughout his life, according to Baker, a historian at the University of Maine. After successes in high school and college, Owens scored his greatest triumph at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, winning four gold medals. For some years after that he tried to parlay his fame into money, an attempt made onerous by the difficulty of marketing running skills and the prevailing racial feelings of the '30s and '40s. Eventually, however, he became an Illinois state official and a respected spokesman for Republicanism. As his fame persisted, notes Baker, he began to make money through endorsements, dying in comfortable circumstances. History Book Club alternate. (June)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1986
Release date: 07/01/1986
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-613-18814-2
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-02-901760-9
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