Lawrence County’s Fastest Son Gets His Own Home Stretch
Monument to Olympic hero Jesse Owens, out of Oakville.
Photo by Brad Wiegmann, Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association
German Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s plan at the Berlin 1936 Olympics was to showcase the Aryan people as the world’s dominant race. Jesse Owens, born the 10th child of Oakville, Alabama, sharecroppers, overcame a sickly childhood and derailed Hitler’s grand scheme by being the first American to win four track and field gold medals at a single Olympics — 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump. His record stood unbroken for 48 years.
The Alabama native and legend no doubt gained many important lessons from his lifelong mentor, track-and-field Coach Charles Riley, after they first encountered each other while Owens was still in junior high. Riley, recognizing immediately that he had a gifted natural athlete in his hands, counseled Owens to run “as if the track was on fire.”
To honor those accomplishments and many others, a portion of State Highway 36 in Lawrence County was dedicated June 9 with an official sign dedication and reception hosted by the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association. The event took place 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. Six signs, on both the north- and south-bound lanes of Interstate 65 near the Jesse Owens Parkway (Alabama Highway 36) and in each direction marking the section of the Alabama Highway 36, note the distinction, as well as two signs to be replaced on Alabama Highway 157.
The Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum is at 7019 County Road 203 in Danville. The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association is a nonprofit dedicated to the promotion and development of the travel industry within the 16 northernmost counties of the state.