Sens. Brown and Portman Announce Senate Passage of Resolution to Honor Ohioan, Olympian, and Civil Rights Icon Jesse Owens

Brown’s and Portman’s Senate Resolution Honors Jesse Owens for Contributions to Athletics and Civil Rights, Humanitarian Efforts

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) announced the passage of a Senate Resolution to honor Ohioan Jesse Owens. The resolution, introduced by Brown and co-sponsored by Portman, recognizes Owens – one of the greatest athletes and Olympians in world history, and a civil rights icon who singlehandedly discredited false theories of racial superiority at the 1936 Berlin Games.

“The legacy of Ohioan Jesse Owens will stand the test of time,” Brown said. “As an athlete, he won world records and Olympic gold medals while dominating his sport as few ever have or ever will. He became a global icon when – at the 1936 Berlin Games – he discredited the theory that the Aryan race was superior to others. And he concluded his life as an ambassador to the United States and an ambassador to the poor. But to achieve each, Mr. Owens had to endure hatred and bigotry from outside agitators and even the school and country he competed for and represented. For these efforts, he made Ohio, the United States, and the world a better place.”

“I am pleased that the United States Senate has chosen to honor the life and legacy of Jesse Owens. This Ohioan inspired a nation, stood up to tyranny, and helped advance the cause of racial equality through not only his athletic prowess, but the content of his character,” Portman said. “In the 1936 Olympics, his four gold medals exposed the lie at the heart of Nazism and made him an American hero.”

At the age of nine, Owens moved from Alabama to Cleveland, Ohio where he excelled as a track and field star – breaking two junior high school world records, and setting two and tying another high school world record. While a student and athlete at The Ohio State University, Owens could not live on campus due to a lack of housing for black students, and could not stay at the same hotels or eat at the same restaurants as his white teammates. But Owens endured and, at the 1935 Big Ten Conference Track and Field Championships, he set three world records and tied another—in a 45 minute span and with an injured back. Owens’ most enduring legacy, however, was embarrassing the Nazi regime that hosted the 1936 Berlin Olympics by winning four gold medals, discrediting the false theory that racial disparity determined athletic achievement. Despite these accomplishments, Owens was neither recognized by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt or Harry S. Truman. He was, however, named Ambassador of Sport by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955, during which he advocated for social and economic justice.    

Brown’s and Portman’s resolution can be read in its entirety HERE:


Press Contact

Meghan Dubyak/Lauren Kulik (Brown) 202-224-3978

Caitlin Conant/Michael Haidet (Portman) 202-224-5190