Family fights to keep Jesse Owens name on school

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Marlene Owens Rankin says her late father, the great Jesse Owens, deserved better.  Rankin and her sisters are understandably proud of the olympic champion.  Not just for his accomplishments on the track and how he faced down Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Berlin games – but how he lived his life.  In his post-olympic life, Jesse Owens dedicated himself to young people with the family awarding hundreds of scholarships to worthy kids through the Jesse Owens Foundation.


“He was more than just an athlete.  He was a person who gave to community,” says Rankin.  “What he did in his lifetime means a lot to a lot of people.”


At the corner of 125th street and Jesse Owens Drive, in the west Pullman neighborhood, you’ll find Owens school.  The only problem is it’s not called  Jesse Owens Elementary anymore.  That school closed – part of the sweeping plan to shutter 49 under-utilized buildings, as the school system struggles to deal with a $1 billion dollar deficit.


Family of Olympic athlete fight to keep name on West Pullman schoolNow it’s called “Gompers South,” part of a larger Gompers Fine Arts elementary program.   But Rankin still doesn’t understand why the building had to lose it’s historic name.


“It’s very painful to know that someone was hired to chisel his name off the school.  That really hurts.  It’s appalling.”


Public school spokespeople say it’s a community-driven decision – not up to district headquarters.  In a written statement, Becky Carroll says, “local school councils make recommendations on the naming of their schools.  If a local council should vote in favor of a name change, that recommendation would then be brought to the Board of Education for a Vote.”


Jesse Owens daughters say it’s the right thing to do.



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  • David

    I din't see why people are getting mad over this, it's just a name. I mean this is a man who has a legacy, for he faced many obstacles to be the man he was, and yet people get mad over a name change. I've heard that wgn asked a few families if they knew who he was and most didn't, shouldn't people spend more time to get his name known to the younger generations of children instead of whining over a name change. Now what really made me angry was when the African american man said that it was an insult to the black community. Honesty i'm black and I don't feel one bit insulted. If that was my name, I would't even care if it was changed, because IT'S JUST A NAME!!!!!!! I didn't know who je was until I watched this video. so his daughters want children to attend school named after a man who they don't know. I bet if you asked the children who attended the school when it was still named jessie owens if they knew who he was, most would say they don't. I find it funny how people can waste time over a named change, then to continue and talk about his legacy.