On Jim Thorpe

On Jim Thorpe

As we near the 100th anniversary of Jim Thorpe’s triumph in the 1912 Olympics, his story is worth telling again and again.


The Potawatomi Indian Wa-tha-sko-huk, “Bright Path,” was dead. Descended from Chief Blackhawk of the Sauk and Fox. Vaulted over often insurmountable barriers of race and poverty, from the one-room cabin of his birth near Prague, Oklahoma, to the Olympic Stadium of Stockholm, Sweden, where he won gold medals for the United States in both the decathlon and pentathlon. This native son of the Thunder Clan, who clad himself with thunder and ran with lightning on the track, baseball and football fields, was Jim Thorpe. When news of his death swept America in 1953, I was 6 years old. His life story caught my heart, and as a boy I read everything I could about him: about his hero’s journey, his descent, his ultimate triumph. His was the eternal story of unending drive, of focus, of love of the game, of victory, defeat and, at last, victory. That he had been declared by many “the greatest athlete who ever lived” would seem questionable in today’s hyperinflated twenty-four-hour sports cycle, where attention equals fame equals accomplishment. As we near the 100th anniversary of his triumph in the 1912 Olympics, his story is worth telling again and again.

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read. It’s just one of many examples of incisive, deeply-reported journalism we publish—journalism that shifts the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media. For nearly 160 years, The Nation has spoken truth to power and shone a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug.

In a critical election year as well as a time of media austerity, independent journalism needs your continued support. The best way to do this is with a recurring donation. This month, we are asking readers like you who value truth and democracy to step up and support The Nation with a monthly contribution. We call these monthly donors Sustainers, a small but mighty group of supporters who ensure our team of writers, editors, and fact-checkers have the resources they need to report on breaking news, investigative feature stories that often take weeks or months to report, and much more.

There’s a lot to talk about in the coming months, from the presidential election and Supreme Court battles to the fight for bodily autonomy. We’ll cover all these issues and more, but this is only made possible with support from sustaining donors. Donate today—any amount you can spare each month is appreciated, even just the price of a cup of coffee.

The Nation does not bow to the interests of a corporate owner or advertisers—we answer only to readers like you who make our work possible. Set up a recurring donation today and ensure we can continue to hold the powerful accountable.

Thank you for your generosity.

Ad Policy