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Jim Thorpe, Native American Olympic Gold Medalist

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 1 week ago

Jim Thorpe as a Olympic gold medalist in the 1912 decathlon

Jim Thorpe's (Wa-Tho-Huk) name means Bright Path.


  • A multi-sport athlete, Jim Thorpe won gold medals in the 1912 Olympics in the pentathlon and the decathlon only to have the International Olympic Committee take them away in 1913 for having violated his amateur status by playing minor league baseball.


  • Thorpe was a standout for Carlisle's basketball, lacrosse, tennis and handball teams. He also excelled in baseball, bowling, golf, swimming, billiards, gymnastics, rowing, hockey, boxing and figure skating.


  • He also played professional baseball in the Eastern Carolina League for Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in 1909 and 1910, receiving as little as US$2 ($56 today). It was because of those payments that Thorp eventually lost his Olympic medals as he was considered a professional and not an amateur.


  • He has been called the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century. 


  • While Olympic medals were restored post-humorously in 1982, his individual marks for the events remained unrecorded. 


  • Later in 1913, Thorpe signed with the New York Giants, and also played Major League Baseball between 1913 and 1919. Thorpe for his achievements, King Gustav V told him, "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world." Thorpe reportedly replied, "Thanks, king."

As biographer Kate Buford noted in Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend (Knopf, 2010), his public career was "the embodiment of this country's eternal treatment of the vanishing Indian. . . underpaid, exploited, stripped of his medals, his records and his pride" (quoted in The New York Times Book Review, December 12, 2010, p. 20).


Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe. David Maraniss. 2022


 Biography Resources


Read a brief biography of his life from the official Jim Thorpe website


Watch a brief biography of his life here


 Olympic Achievements


Jim Thorpe - Native American Olympian Hero



Jim Thorpe won two Gold medals with shoes someone had thrown in the trash













Read about the establishment of the town of Jim Thorpe 


Learning about Olympian Jim Thorpe and the Pennsylvania town named for him 


Jim Thorpe Card, 1955

Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 granted full citizenship to Native Americans for the first time.



Learning Plans


Evaluate His legacy today.



How Much do Professional Athletes Really Make in 2023?

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