Jim Thorpe Inducted Into The Hall of Fame 2005 – His Historical Marker In Rocky Mount, NC Is Standing Again

A Thorpe marker first installed in 1960 told passersby that Jim Thorpe came to the city in 1909 to play baseball for the Rocky Mount Railroaders. The marker was accidentally struck by a mowing service. It took several years, but the marker stands again.

Jogging your memory: A year after Thorpe won his two gold medals, a newspaper reported that Thorpe had been paid a salary of between $60-100 a month while playing minor league baseball for the Rocky Mount Railroaders. The United States Olympic Committee, stripped Thorpe of his amateur status and made him return his medals and trophies.

The Olympics were originally designed to allow amateur athletes to compete on an international stage. The first Olympic Games held in Athens, Greece in 1896 were restricted to those who had never been paid to play sports of any kind. Because of Thorpe’s stint in Rocky Mount with pay, he was disqualified a year after winning his medals.

In October 1986, the IOC decided to officially loosen its amateurism policy for pro athletes. They allowed the international federations of the participating sports to decide whether to allow professional athletes to compete. Many feel that decision has taken from the Olympics its original intention and sullied the event.

Jim Thorpe is Reinstated as the Official Winner of the 1912 Olympics.

LOS ANGELES – The ceremony that returned replicas of Thorpe’s medals was dignified, yet emotional. There were smiles, as well as tears. But most of all, there was joy that a mistake finally had been rectified. ‘After 70 years,” said 63-year-old Charlotte Thorpe, wiping the tears from her eyes, “the marathon has finally ended.” So it had. For the family of James Francis Thorpe, the quest to have his name restored to the Olympic record books had ended. In a ceremony, presided over by International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC officially presented the members of the Thorpe family with replicas of the gold medals their father won in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. “On behalf of the Olympic movement,” Samaranch said, “I should like to say how happy we are on this unique occasion to pay tribute to a man whose name is famous in the history of Olympism.” Thorpe, the Indian from Carlisle, Pa., was generally regarded as the greatest American athlete of his time. When he won the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympic games in Stockholm, his reputation became worldwide.

Photo by Knox Porter

Rocky Mount, NC embraces the Olympic dream that brings people together from around the world. The positive values of hard work, fair play, excellence and team spirit that transcends borders, cultures and ethnicity; are values to unite us. On the occasion of Thorpe’s marker being reinstalled, let all of us commit to a united Rocky Mount that practices the Olympic values.

Aren’t we glad to have lived long enough to know the rest of the story. (The Rest of the Story was a Monday-through-Friday radio program originally hosted by Paul Harvey on WGN in Chicago.) In the mystery of things, we hope Thorpe knows that his medals were reinstated and that he is honored as a Twin County Inductee in the second class. Unfortunately, he died a tragic figure, in ill health, and largely forgotten, but Rocky Mount will always be proud that this legendary man passed this way.

PS: I found there were trading cards for the Rocky Mount Railroaders. I was startled when the name on a card was Gilbert Forgue. (My maiden name is Forgue.) Could there be a connection? The 2nd card is Edward Gastmeyer. The 3rd, James Gillespie. I hope someone has their grandfathers collection.

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