From very humble beginnings as a sharecropper’s son in Oakville, Alabama to standing atop an Olympic podium proudly wearing gold, Jesse Owens made it look easy, but it was not. Racial and socioeconomic barriers were just a few of the obstacles Owens overcame.

Equipped with a hard work ethic that he learned from his parents and feet that could fly, Owens did what no other man or woman had done before – he won four gold medals at one Olympiad.

Returning home to a ticker tape parade, Owens’ life was changed forever. However, what endeared him to so many were the lives that he then changed forever with his humanitarian work that spanned four decades.

Owens and Cleveland Mayor Harold Borton in the Cleveland ticker tape parade, 1936.

Jesse Owens with his wife, Ruth Owens at Ohio State University. Courtesy of OSU Archives