James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens (born 12 September 1913 at Oakville, Alabama; died 31 March 1980 at Tucson, Arizona) was an African-American athlete who famously won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4x100m relay. Owens' victories have been seen 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 yards 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 25 May 1935, breaking the marks for the broad jump, the 220 yards and 220 yards hurdles while tying the 100 yards 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.