Town Named 'Jim Thorpe' Fights to Keep His Body

Sons want famed athlete moved home to Oklahoma tribal land

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Sep 5, 2013 1:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – The surviving sons of the famous American Indian athlete Jim Thorpe have long fought to get the remains of their father moved from Jim Thorpe, Pa., to tribal lands in Oklahoma, where he was born. Now they've won a crucial legal victory that puts them close to their goal—but Jim Thorpe the town isn't letting its Olympian namesake go without a fight. With donation jars that read "Keep Jim Thorpe in Jim Thorpe," locals are raising money for the town's appeal—to be filed later this month—saying they have honored a man long considered one of the 20th century's best athletes. "We have no intention of letting him go," says one.

How did this mess start? After Oklahoma's governor balked at the cost of a planned monument to Thorpe, third wife Patricia had Thorpe's body removed in the midst of his 1953 funeral and sent it to northeastern Pennsylvania, where she struck a deal with two merging towns to build a memorial and name the new town after him. "All this time we've wanted his body back because of the way that it was taken away from us," says Thorpe's son, Bill. "And we had no authority." In April, a US District Judge ruled in favor of Thorpe, his brother Richard, and the Sac and Fox tribe to which their father belonged. The case heads next to the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals, where written arguments are due Sept. 23.

In this Jan. 12, 2010 file photo a vehicle passes Jim Thorpe's tomb, left, in Jim Thorpe, Pa.
In this Jan. 12, 2010 file photo a vehicle passes Jim Thorpe's tomb, left, in Jim Thorpe, Pa.   (Matt Rourke)
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