1. James Francis “Jim” Thorpe was a Sac and Fox athlete of Native American and European ancestry.
2. Considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern sports, he won Olympic gold medals in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, played American football , and also played professional baseball and basketball.
3. He lost his Olympic titles after it was found he was paid for playing two seasons of semi-professional baseball before competing in the Olympics, thus violating the amateurism rules that were then in place.
4. In 1983, 30 years after his death, the International Olympic Committee restored his Olympic medals.
5. Thorpe grew up in the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma.
6. He played as part of several all American Indian teams throughout his career, and “barnstormed” as a professional basketball player with a team composed entirely of American Indians.
7. From 1920 to 1921, Thorpe was nominally the first president of the American Professional Football Association in 1922.
8. He played professional sports until age 41, the end of his sports career coinciding with the start of the Great Depression.
9. Thorpe struggled to earn a living after that, working several odd jobs.
10. Thorpe suffered from alcoholism, and lived his last years in failing health and poverty.
11. In a poll of sports fans conducted by ABC Sports, Thorpe was voted the Greatest Athlete of the Twentieth Century out of 15 other athletes including Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth, Jesse Owens, Wayne Gretzky, Jack Nicklaus, and Michael Jordan.
12. Thorpe was born in Indian Territory, but no birth certificate has been found.
13. However, most biographers believe that he was born on May 22, 1887, as that is what is listed on his baptismal certificate.
14. Bellemont was a small community, now disappeared, on the line between Pottawatomie and Lincoln Counties. While the town of Prague, Lincoln County, now claims to be the birthplace of Thorpe, there is no evidence that Thorpe himself called Prague his hometown.
15. The Sac and Fox agency is in Stroud, Lincoln County, which could cause some of the confusion.
16. His father, Hiram Thorpe, had an Irish father and a Sac and Fox Indian mother.
17. His mother, Charlotte Vieux, had a French father and a Potawatomi mother, a descendant of Chief Louis Vieux.
18. He was raised as a Sac and Fox, As was the custom for Sac and Fox, he was named for something occurring around the time of his birth, in this case the light brightening the path to the cabin where he was born.