“Showcase the good.” Three simple words with profound meaning were spoken by Olympic Gold medal winner and track and field superstar Jesse Owens. These words, however, encapsulate that reality that he was more than just an athlete but a true champion of spirit. In 1936 he captured the attention of the world by shattering Hitler’s Aryan supremacy theory with his talent and four Gold medals as an African American. Furthermore, in spite of segregated America at this time in history everyone was still cheering for Jesse Owens. He broke many barriers and defied all odds as both an athlete and the grandson of slaves.
There are few places in Alabama that showcase the good quite like the museum and park created in Jesse Owens’ honor just outside of Decatur in his hometown of Oakville, Alabama. Sixty years after his Olympic achievements The Jesse Owens Museum & Park arrived with the Olympic Torch enroute to the Atlanta Games in June of 1996. His athletic and humanitarian achievements are seen at the park and museum through the interactive museum, statue, replicas, a broad-jump pit, and an English oak tree planted from the same variety as the Gold medal tree given to Owens.
Owens’ memory is immortalized by portraying the ways he shaped history as both an athlete and a man. There are display cases of memorabilia including programs from the 1936 Olympics, replicas of track uniforms and shoes worn by Owens, medals, and trophies from the beginning of his success in high school.
There’s a mini-theater in the museum that shows the documentary film Return to Berlin narrated by Owens himself. There are panel displays that depict his life from the beginning in Oakville, Alabama until his death in 1980. Additionally, the museum offers The Decatur Daily Resource Center that provides computers and printers for visitors to do their own research of this exceptional individual.
The thoughtfulness of the park is evident as it was created to mirror his dedication to America’s youth. There are picnic tables and pavilions, a baseball and softball field, basketball court, playground, and free Wifi all for community enjoyment. In the final phase of construction there will be an Olympic track.
The facility, including both the museum and park, is ideal for group tours and field trips. The hours of operation are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
This story is sponsored by Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism.