1913: [September 12] Mary Emma Owens gives birth to James Cleveland (J.C.) Owens in Oakville, Alabama.


Jesse Owens in high school. Photo date unkown.1922:The Owens family moves to Cleveland, Ohio. James Cleveland Owens enrolls in Bolton Elementary School where he becomes known as “Jesse” (from “J.C.”) Owens.

1928: Owens sets his first records in the high jump and long jump at Fairmount Junior High School under coach and life-long mentor, Charles Riley.


Jesse Owens and Minnie Ruth Solomon get married in 1932.1930: Owens enrolls into Cleveland’s East Technical School. Riley follows as a volunteer assistant coach.

1930:  Owens and Minnie Ruth Solomon meet.

1932: Owens competes in the Midwestern preliminary trials at Northwestern University. Owens loses all three events in which he competes.

1932: [August] Minnie Ruth gives birth to their first child, Gloria.

1932: [Autumn] Owens is elected president of his senior class and captain of the track team.

1933: [Spring] Owens finishes first in 75 of the 79 competitions he enters. He breaks the long-jump record at the state interscholastic finals.

1933: At the National Championship in Chicago, Owens wins the long jump, sets a new world record in the 220-yard dash and ties the world record in the 100-yard dash.

Jesse Owens crosses the finish line while running for OSU. Photo date unkown.1933: [October 9] Owens enrolls in The Ohio State University.

1935: Owens is appointed as an honorary page for a legislative committee at the Ohio Statehouse.

1935: Jesse Owens and Minnie Ruth Solomon get married.

1935: [May 25] Owens sets world records in the 220-yard dash, 220-yard low hurdles and the long jump in less than one hour at the Big Ten Finals in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

1936: [June 15] Owens finishes his last quarter at OSU before the Olympics.

[July] Owens participates in the Olympic tryout finals in New York, winning all three of his events (100m, 200m, and long jump).

1936: [August] Owens wins four gold medals in the Olympic Games. He sets new world records in the 200 meter race (20.7 seconds), long jump (26 feet, 5 ¼ inches), and 400 meter relay (39.8 seconds), while tying the world record for 100 meter dash (10.3 seconds).

1936: [Winter] Owens becomes ineligible to compete for Ohio State due to poor academic standings.

1936: Owens races a thoroughbred horse in Cuba for $2,000. Owens wins the race.

1937: [January] Jesse signs a contract with Consolidated Radio Artists as an entertainer.

1937: Ruth and Jesse’s second child, Marlene, is born.

1938: Owens works for Cleveland’s Parks and Recreation Department.

1938: Owens founds Jesse Owens Dry Cleaning Company.

1939: Owens files for personal bankruptcy.


1940: Ruth and Jesse’s third child, Beverly, is born

1940: [October 1] Owens returns to OSU but he is soon placed on academic probation.

1941: [December 19] Owens withdraws from OSU.

1942: [January] Owens is appointed the Director of National Fitness by the U.S. Office of Civilian Defense.

1943Ford Motor Co. hires Owens as Assistant Personnel Director of African-American workers. He is then promoted to director, then later works in public relations.

1949: Owens and his family move to Chicago, where he establishes a public relations agency.


Jesse Owens visits with children in the Philippines in the 1950s.1950: The Associated Press names Owens the greatest track athlete of the past half-century.

1953: [December] Gloria, Owens’ eldest daughter, graduates from OSU.

1953: Owens is appointed secretary of Illinois’ State Athletic Commission.

1955: Owens travels to India, Philippines, and Malaysia to lead running clinics, but also to promote the economic and political freedoms of the United States.

1956: Owens and several other former U.S. Olympic champions attend the 1956 Summer Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia, as personal representatives of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.


1960: Marlene, Jesse’s second-eldest daughter, is voted Homecoming Queen at OSU, becoming the first African American to receive the honor. 

1961: Marlene graduates from OSU.

1965: The first ARCO Jesse Owens Games is established.

1965: [February] Owens becomes the training and running coach during spring training for the New York Mets baseball team.


OSU awards Jesse Owens an honorary degree during its spring 1972 commencement.1970: Owens’ memoir, Blackthink: My Life as Black Man and White Man, is published.

1971: President Richard Nixon sends Owens to the Ivory Coast in West Africa to lead running clinics and promote economic and political freedoms of the United States.

1972: OSU awards Owens with an honorary doctorate of athletic arts “for his unparalleled skill and ability” as an athlete and for “his personification of sportsmanship ideals.”

1973: U.S. Olympic Committee appoints Owens to its board of directors. He spends most of his time in this position pushing for funding to equip and train U.S. athletes.

Jesse and Ruth Owens are pictured with President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford after the 1976 ceremony to award Owens the Presidential Medal of Freedom.1974: Owens is inducted into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame.

1976: President Gerald Ford presents Owens with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor given by the U.S. government.

1979: Owens, a lifetime smoker, is diagnosed with lung cancer.


1980: [March 31] Owens dies at the age of 66.

1984: [May 4] The Jesse Owens Memorial Plaza is dedicated outside of Ohio Stadium.

1984: [July 8] “The Jesse Owens Story” debuts on television with actor Dorian Harewood playing Owens.


1996: [June 29] Jesse Owens Memorial Park is dedicated in Oakville, Alabama.


2001:  Ruth Owens dies at the age of 86.

2009: [November 6] At a hearing held at OSU, state lawmakers hear testimony on why Owens should be chosen for a statue to be placed in the Nation Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.