James Francis Thorpe accomplished arguably what no other athlete in history has. Born near the town of Prague, Oklahoma, the Sac and Fox American Indian won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon in the 1912 Olympic games in Sweden. Sweden’s King Gustav V called Jim “the greatest athlete in the world.” He was also both professional football and professional baseball player. His feats on the football field put him on the 1911 and 1912 All-American football teams. In 1920 he became the first president of the American Professional Football Association (later to become the NFL).
In 1950, Associated Press named him as the greatest football player and greatest all-round athlete for the first 50 years of this century. Unfortunately, the International Olympic Committee took away his gold medals as a consequence of being paid as he had played as semi-professional baseball as a student at Carlisle Indian Industrial School. This was at a time when the IOC was just starting to formulate the rules on mixing professional and amateur sports, and Jim Thorpe was the “test case”.
You may be able to imagine the impact it has on Jim. He died penniless and as an alcoholic. His mother wrote to all the local counties to ask for a free plot to bury this heartbroken man. Mauch Chunk, deep in the coal mining area of Pennsylvania, accepted his remains on the basis that they could name anything in town after him (sort of a progressive tourism thinkers). Soon, up popped the Jim Thorpe Haberdashery, the Jim Thorpe Library, etc, etc, until the entire town decided to change its name (wouldn’t you if you had a name like Mauch Chunk).
And how does that relate to the Jim Thorpe Stateroom at Ford House, deep in southwestern Western Australia? Ken & Jenny bought their Amish Quilts in Pennsylvania while they were staying in the town of Jim Thorpe and just like the fact that Jim Thorpe never lived in the town of Jim Thorpe…..he has never lived at Ford House either.
Some of this information was in the People Weekly Magazine, 01/08/96 Vol.45, No.1