According to an article in Chicago Sun-Times Chicago will once again have a school named for one of its most famous residents, Olympian Jesse Owens. In June, a school named for Owens in the far South Side community of West Pullman closed to consolidate with another school, which is named for Samuel Gompers. It’s expected that the city’s Board of Education will take the Gompers local school council’s recommendation to rename the consolidated Gompers school for Owens.
The Sun-Times story includes quotes from Owens’ daughter, Gloria Owens Hemphill, who was dismayed when the original Owens school closed and is happy to see that he will be honored once again. Hemphill recalled that, to her father, “every child was a champ, all they needed was the opportunity to be one.”
Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe in 1936
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Those comments echoed what Chicago historian Timuel Black told us while we were interviewing him about the Rosenwald Apartments, a large block of apartments built by Julius Rosenwald in 1929 that was home to many of Chicago’s black middle class at the time. Some of the famous people that made their home there were Robert Taylor, Joe Louis, Quincy Jones, Duke Ellington, Ralph Metcalfe and Jesse Owens. Black described the remarkably close relationship Metcalfe, Louis and Owens had with the children in the neighborhood. While working out in nearby Washington Park, Black said, Owens and Metcalfe would run alongside the kids. “For those of my generation,” Black said, they were “like our big brothers.”
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, 2011
Click here to read more at the Sun-Times.