Jim Thorpe was the first Native American to win gold medals for the US in the Olympics. He was even voted as The Greatest Athlete of the First Half of the Century. Many loved and idolized him. In fact, two towns in Pennsylvania named themselves after him. But did you know where he was buried?
Sports legend Jim Thorpe is buried in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, a town he never visited nor had any connection to in his life. Thorpe’s third wife sold his corpse to the towns when she heard they wanted to attract tourists to their town.
Who was Jim Thorpe?
James Francis Thorpe was born on May 28, 1888, near Prague, a former Indian territory now known as Oklahoma. Thorpe was of Saux and Fox American Indian descent who displayed his immense skills in sports while he was studying. He joined Walter Camp’s All-America teams in 1911. In 1912, he won the gold medals in decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm.
Sadly, his gold medals were stripped off him in 1913 because authorities found out that Thorpe played semi-professional baseball in 1909 and 1910. This meant he should not have been allowed to join the Olympics in the first place. Thorpe played as an outfielder for the New York, Cincinnati, and Boston baseball teams the following year.
By 1919, the great athlete became one of the early stars of American professional football. He even became the first president of the American Professional Football Association, which was the precursor of the National Football League.
Thorpe was also known to perform well in other sports like basketball, boxing, lacrosse, swimming, and hockey. Thorpe succumbed to alcoholism in his later years and had difficulty adjusting to life outside sports. He had a hard time adapting to life as an employee despite being celebrated in newspaper and magazine articles as one of the greatest athletes of all time.
A few years before his death in 1953, a dramatic biography film titled Jim Thorpe-All American was released. Burt Lancaster played Thorpe in the film. His legacy still lives on in the NFL, where the league awards the most valuable player a Jim Thorpe Trophy annually. (Source: Britannica)
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
After the Thorpe passed in 1954, the communities of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, merged to form the borough of Jim Thorpe. The town is known for both the charms of a European village and the thrills of a mountain sports destination, and this historic town is one of the gems of the Pocono Mountains. (Source: Pocono Mountains)
The town came about renaming themselves using the name of the great athlete when Thorpe’s third wife, Patsy, was enraged that Oklahoma refused to pay for his memorial. She shopped for other places to pay for his memorial.
The towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk caught Patsy’s attention. She discovered that two towns were no longer generating sufficient money and heard of a news reporter’s idea of merging the two towns for economic purposes.
She then met with the reporter and offered a deal. She would give Jim Thorpe’s corpse to them on the condition that the towns would combine and be named after him. Patsy also asked that Thorpe’s body be honored with a tomb and a public memorial. (Source: ESPN)