Covering Chicago's Back-to-School Season

Jesse Owens' Name to Return to South Side School

Approval by Chicago Board of Education would immediately rename school

Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013  |  Updated 2:40 PM CDT
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Jesse Owens' Daughter Speaks Out About School Name Change

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Jesse Owens' Daughter Speaks Out About School Name Change

Going forward, Jesse Owens Community Academy will be referred to as Gompers South, a decision the Olympic track and field star's three daughters think is disrespectful.
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A South Side school will once again bear the name of Olympic track and field star Jesse Owens.

The Chicago Board of Education voted Wednesday to restore the name to the Pullman neighborhood school, currently known as Samuel Gompers Fine Arts Option School.

The building, at 12540 S. State St., previously known as Jesse Owens Community Academy, was one of 49 elementary schools closed this year in the Chicago Public Schools' mass wave of closures. Students who attended Owens were welcomed at nearby Gompers.

Owens' daughters protested the removal of their father's name from the school, calling it a slight to his memory.

Last month, a local school council approved an initiative to restore the name to the school and rename Gompers as Jesse Owens Elementary Community Academy.

With the Board of Education's OK, both schools will immediately be named after Owens.

In a statement Wednesday, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett gave her blessing.

"Jesse Owens remains a powerful figure in our country's history and this school's name will serve as a moving tribute to his legacy as well as a reminder for students for years to come how one person can influence the course of history," she said.

The name was chiseled off the school in August, and now CPS must find a way to replace the name.

Owens lived much of his adult life in Chicago. The sprinter and long jumper won four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. His performances live in infamy because they were witnessed by Adolf Hitler, who was using the Games as a platform to showcase his beliefs of Aryan racial superiority.

Owens died in 1980 and is buried at Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago.

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