Daughters of Olympic champ Owens protest removal of name from school

Aug. 22, 2013 at 10:51 AM
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CHICAGO, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- The daughters of Olympic champion Jesse Owens are protesting a decision by school officials to remove their father's name from an elementary school.

Marlene Rankin, Owens' youngest daughter, called the action "disrespectful," the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday.

Jesse Owens Community Academy was among 49 schools the school board voted to close in the spring. Its students were moved to Samuel Gompers Fine Arts Option School. The school bearing Owens' name has been reopened under the Gompers name for students in kindergarten through third grade. Fourth through eighth graders are being taught at the existing Gompers Elementary.

Owens' daughters testified against closing down the school during hearings last spring. Last week they sent a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, school board President David Vitale and two South Side alderman, asking for the school to retain their father's name after they learned it would still be in use.

The name change was "a community-driven decision, not a [district] decision, said board spokeswoman Becky Carroll.

Any decision to rename the school would have to be made by the local school council, she said.

Owens won four gold medals in track-and-field events at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, embarrassing Adolf Hitler by putting the lie to the Nazi leader's theory of "Aryan supremacy."

Born in Alabama, he moved to Chicago in the late 1940s, working in public relations, as a motivational speaker and helping disadvantaged youth.

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