The Jesse Owens Memorial Park Is One of The State's Best Kept Secrets

The Jesse Owens Memorial Park was built to honor one of the best athletes ever to compete in the World Olympics.

This amazing man captured the world’s attention for two specific reasons; he was a tremendous athlete, and he was an African American.

The museum that honors this great man is built in his hometown of Oakville Alabama and is a 20 park that celebrates his achievements.

The Homestead at the Jesse Owens Memorial ParkThe Homestead at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park

The Jesse Owens Memorial Park is located at 7019 Country Road 203 in Oakville, it is about 30 miles northwest of Cullman.

It is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Sundays from 1:00 to 4:00 PM.

However, this beautiful park is open to the public at all times for its playgrounds, ball fields, and basketball courts.

The History of the Jessie Owens Memorial Park

The Statue At The Jesse Owens Memorial ParkThe Statue At The Jesse Owens Memorial Park

The Jessie Owens Memorial Park tells the story of this incredible track and field athlete, who won 4 Gold Medals in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany.

Not only was this a first for any athlete to win that many gold medals, but it was also a first for an African American.

To add to the intrigue of this accomplishment was the fact that it was held in Berlin Germany, only a few short years before World War II.

60 years after this major accomplishment, this park and museum was dedicated on June 29, 1996, when the Olympic torch arrived on its journey to the Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Mr. Owens was born in Oakville Alabama in a sharecropper’s cabin, where he lived until he was nine years old.

Until the year 1983, the only claim to fame the area had been two small markers that honored this Olympic track and field star.

However, that all was about to change as in the same year, a State Representative named Roger Dutton, sought state funding to build a monument to honor this hero.

However, he wanted it to be located in Moulton Alabama instead of Oakville, because it was more logistically accessible.

At this point the Lawrence County Commission stepped in and made the decision to place the monument where it belonged, in Oakville.

However, this still did not set well with the residents of Oakville, as they wanted something much more for their local hero than just a monument.

In the year 1991 local residents began working with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, to buy land in the Oakville area for this pending project.

Led by Therman White, this service as well as Auburn University raised more than $ 2 million dollars to build a park and a museum.

This is where the Jessie Owens Memorial Park really began to take shape, as the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service made one other major request.

They reached out to the Olympic Torch Committee to include this proposed memorial to Jesse Owens and change its route on the way to the Atlanta Summer Olympics.

They wanted this symbol of great athletes worldwide to come to the dedication ceremony on its way to Atlanta, and the Olympic Torch Committee agreed.

Once this agreement was reached and broadcast to America, donations poured in to help build this park and museum.

As a result of these additional donations, the Jessie Owens Memorial Park was built and completed.

It was completed just a couple of days before the Olympic Torch arrived, and the grandson of this great athlete, Stuart Owen Rankin, carried the torch to the park.

Mr. Owens window, Ruth Owens, lit the “eternal flame” in the parks newly created 1936 Olympic Torch replica, and the park was dedicated and then opened.

It was estimated that more than 10,000 people attended these opening ceremonies, including Mr. Owens surviving family members.

The Highlights of the Jesse Owens Memorial Park

The Museum At The Jesse Owens Memorial ParkThe Museum At The Jesse Owens Memorial Park

There are several highlights or attractions at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park, and they include the following.

  • The Statue of Jesse Owens
  • The Museum
  • The Long Jump Pit
  • The Gold Medal Tree
  • The 1936 Olympic Torch Replica
  • The Birth Home Replica

The Statue of Jesse Owens

The first of the major highlights of the Jesse Owens Memorial Park, is the statue of the man himself.

The bronze statue is eight feet tall and is estimated to weigh close to a ton and was unveiled at the opening ceremonies and is still brilliant today.

This brilliant statue sits on top of the hill on the 30-acre park, which is dedicated to this great track and field star.

It was built by the Birmingham Alabama sculptor Branko Medenica, and shows this Olympic Hero bursting through the Olympic Rings.

This symbolism is a fitting tribute to this great man, as it symbolizes both the economic as well as the racial barriers he broke through.

It is especially fitting as the venue it was set in, Berlin Germany, was the home of the white supremacist Nazi’s.

The Museum

However, as grand as this statue is, the center piece of the Jessie Owens Memorial Park is the Museum.

This gorgeous museum has three main galleries as well as two interactive kiosks.

These interactive kiosks center on the life of Mr. Owens, which not only includes his accomplishments in track and field, but his humanitarian ones as well.

The first kiosk highlights his college career at Ohio State, as well as his record breaking four Olympic Gold Medals.

The second kiosk highlights his everyday life and his accomplishments, including winning the Roosevelt Award.

The Roosevelt Award is the highest award given to any individual by the National Collegiate Association.

The museum has three main galleries, and they include the Jesse Owens Story Gallery, The Running Gallery, and the Humanitarian Gallery. 

The Jesse Owens Story Gallery shows the visitor his life story from his very humble beginnings in Oakville, to his college and Olympic heroics.

The Running Gallery features his jersey and shoes, awards he won during high school and college, as well as his 1936 Berlin Olympic Awards.

The Humanitarian Gallery highlights what he accomplished after his Olympic Days, including his work with Boys Clubs.

It also features several other major achievements, including the State Department America’s Ambassador of Sports position he held.

The Long Jump Pit

Next is the Long Jump Pit, which allows young athletes to test their skills at one of Jessie Owens best events

At this attraction you can see his 1936 Gold Medal distance of 26 feet 5 and 5/16 inches measured off to show what a great athlete he really was.

It also highlights Luz Long, his German Competitor, who he later became lifelong friends with.

The Gold Medal Tree

The next attraction at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park is the Gold Medal Tree, which was an idea of Mr. Owens several years before he died.

This attraction is all based on one of Mr. Owens quotes from his documentary of the 1936 Olympic Games, called the “Return to Berlin”

His quote was “You stand on a winner’s platform and a laurel of leaves is placed on your hand.  You are then given a Gold Medal.

You are given a live oak tree to plant. You are an Olympic Champion.”

The 1936 Torch Replica

Next is the 1936 Torch Replica, where the inscription that is one this stainless-steel torch, speaks to the whole purpose of building this park in the memory of this man.

The entire purpose was to capture both the spirit as well as the life of Jesse Owens.

The Birth Home Replica

The final major attraction at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park is the Birth Home Replica that is the re-creation of the house he was born in.

It shows the blankets that were placed on the floor instead of beds, as well as numerous cracks in the walls.

He was the son of a sharecropper, and this shows the visitor his very humble beginnings.

The Jesse Owens Memorial Park is considered to be one of Alabama’s best kept secrets, but it is full of history.

It makes a great day trip for you and your family to see first-hand the life of this amazing man.


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