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The Jesse Owens Museum was built as a living memorial to the world’s most renowned track star and a great humanitarian.

And although he died in 1980, Owens, the idea of planting an oak tree came from Owens’ lips years ago. James Pinion, the Park Director, sat alone one day reviewing the film Return to Berlin, a documentary of the 1936 Olympic Games that is narrated by Owens. In it, Owens says, “You stand on the winners’ platform. A laurel leaf is placed on your head. You receive a gold medal. You are given a little oak tree to plant. You are an Olympic champion.” Towards the end of the film, Owens tells what he did with the trees when he got home. “I planted one in my mother’s back yard in Cleveland and one at my old high school,” he said. “Another stands among the cherished mementos on All-American Road at Ohio State University. The other one died.”

Jesse Owens with wreath and seedlings. 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Jesse Owens with wreath and seedlings. 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

James Pinion felt like Owens was speaking to him – telling him to do something about that. He said, “Perhaps the plant didn’t die, that it was just on hold for a reason . . . to live here at his birthplace.”

Mr. Pinion contacted Jesse Owens widow, Ruth Owens, as she was delighted with the plan. The fourth seedling which did not survive was symbolically replaced on May 16, 1998, 62 years later. Jeese Owens’ family planted the tree at the site of his birthplace.

As members of Jesse Owens’ family look on, Ruth Owens helps plant an oak tree at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum. (Left to Right) Sylvester Owens (Jesse’s brother), Gloria Owens Hemphill, Malcolm Hemphill and Ruth Owens. Oakville, Alabama, the birthplace of Jesse Owens.

As members of Jesse Owens’ family look on, Ruth Owens helps plant an oak tree at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum. (Left to Right) Sylvester Owens (Jesse’s brother), Gloria Owens Hemphill, Malcolm Hemphill and Ruth Owens. Oakville, Alabama, the birthplace of Jesse Owens.

The plaque is inscribed: “May the tree grow to the honor of Jesse Owens’ victories and achievements.” .

Ruth Owens, with the help of Thurman White, planting the Memorial Oak Tree at the Jesse Owens Museum.

Ruth Owens, with the help of Therman White, planting the Memorial Oak Tree at the Jesse Owens Museum.

 

Memorial Oak Tree planted at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum by the Owens family.

Memorial Oak Tree planted at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum by the Owens family.

 

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Hours of Operation

Home Replica & Museum
Monday – Saturday
10 am – 4 pm
Sunday

1 pm – 4 pm

 

 

*The tree planted at Jesse Owens’ high school was removed during an expansion, but not before Owens had his photo taken with it in 1972.

*The tree planted at Ohio State was transplanted to the library site in 1948 to make way for parking lots and a service building. The exact location and status of the tree is unknown.