I thoroughly enjoyed my trip
to the Oakville/Danville area. My visit to this area was not a planned.
Sometimes the best trips are not always planned as I have
discovered. I was returning from a family visit in north Alabama when I saw
the museum signs. I had done some research on this area and when I saw
the signs, my research came back to me. I turned around and had a
I arrived at the Owens Museum
sometime before official opening hours. I believe Johnnie, the Museum
Attendant, felt sorry for me and let me in. I found her to be
fascinating. She gave me a personal tour (since I was the only one in
there). Found out Johnnie and her husband retired in Mobile, Alabama
and moved to the Oakville/Danville some time ago and was loving it. If
you get to the Museum, remember to say hello to Johnnie.
In the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, a single man
captured the attention of the world, winning 4 gold medals, an Olympic
first. Sixty years later, thousands gathered to honor this man with
the dedication of a park named in his honor, the Jesse Owens Memorial
Park. Dedicated on June 29, 1996 with the arrival of the Olympic torch
on its journey to the Atlanta games, the Jesse Owens Memorial Park is
a tribute to the Olympic track and field superstar.
The park, located in Oakville, Alabama showcases
several memorials for Owens including a museum, statue, 1936 torch
replica, and an oak tree of the same variety as Owens' gold medal
tree. The park's goal is twofold- to honor the life and
accomplishments of this remarkable man
and to mirror Owens' dedication to America's youth by investing in the
community. The park provides facilities for community use such as a
basketball court, baseball/softball fields, playground, and picnic
tables and pavilions. The park, in its final phase of a 10-year plan,
will come to completion with the construction of an Olympic track. The
Jesse Owens Memorial Park is ideal for group tours and field trips.
The Jesse Owens Memorial Park Museum immortalizes
Owens' memory by depicting the moments that made Owens great and
portraying the people who shaped him as an athlete and as a man. Glass
display cases showcase rare memorabilia
including programs from the 1936 Olympics, replicas of track uniforms
and shoes, and medals and trophies from Owens' high school days. In
addition, the museum offers visitors interactive kiosks that highlight
Owens' life and accomplishments.
The museum's mini-theater shows the movie "Return to
Berlin" in which Owens narrates the 1936 Olympics. You can follow the
panel displays throughout the museum that depict Owens' life beginning
in Oakville to his death in 1980. The panel displays highlight Owens'
athletic accomplishments as well as his humanitarian efforts.
The seventh out of 11 children of Henry and Emma
Alexander Owens was named James Cleveland Owens when he was born in
Oakville, Alabama on September 12, 1913. "J.C.", as he was called, was
nine when the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where his new
schoolteacher gave him the name that was to become known around the
world. The teacher was told "J.C." when she asked his name to enter in
her roll book, but because of his strong Southern accent she thought
he said "Jesse". The name stuck and he would be known as Jesse Owens
for the rest of his life.
In 1936, Owens arrived in Berlin to compete for the
United States in the Summer Olympics. Adolf Hitler was using the games
to show the world a resurgent Nazi Germany. He and other government
officials had high hopes German athletes would dominate the games with
victories (the German athletes achieved a top of the table medal
haul). Meanwhile, Nazi propaganda promoted concepts of "Aryan racial
superiority" and depicted ethnic Africans as inferior.
Owens surprised many by winning four gold medals: On
August 3, 1936 he won the 100m sprint, defeating Ralph Metcalfe; on
August 4, the long jump (later crediting friendly and helpful advice
Luz Long, the German competitor he ultimately defeated); on August 5,
the 200m sprint; and, after he was added to the 4 x 100 m relay team,
his fourth on August 9 (a performance not equaled until Carl Lewis won
gold medals in the same events at the 1984 Summer Olympics).
Museum, Welcome Center and Home Replica
Monday-Saturday 10 am to 4 pm
Sunday 1 pm to 4:30 pm
Gates always open for access to playgrounds, ball
fields, picnic pavilions and basketball court.
Jesse Owens Memorial Park & Museum
7019 Co. Rd. 203
Danville, AL 35619