James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens (Oakville, Alabama, September 12, 1913 - Tucson, Arizona, March 31, 1980) was an African American athlete who famously won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4-man 100m relays. Owens' victory in the 1936 Olympics has been taken as a dramatic refutation of Hitler's racial claims about the superiority of white Aryans over others (the defeat of German boxer Max Schmeling by Joe Louis in 1938 has been seen similarly). Owens was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976 by Gerald Ford, and posthumously given the Congressional Gold Medal by George H. W. Bush in 1990.
Jesse Owens was born in Alabama but spent much of his later childhood in Cleveland where he honed his athletic skills in high school, tying the world record in the 100 yard dash with a time of 9.7 seconds. While a student at Ohio State University Owens set or tied four world records within the space of an hour on May 25, 1935, breaking the marks for the broad jump, the 220 yard dash and 220 yard hurdles while tying the 100 yard dash record a number of occasions. He then went on to compete at the 1936 Olympics in Germany where he won his string of four gold medals in front of the Nazi dictator.
In the years after his olympic triumphs Owens raced for money and held speaking engagements for various companies and other causes. In 1976 he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by president Gerald Ford and in 1990 president George H. W. Bush posthumously bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal on him.