When all the odds were stacked against him, and his life was in clear danger, Jesse Owens did what he knew best. He ran.
J.C. Owens was the youngest of ten children. Born to a sharecropper and a former slave in Oakville, Alabama, the Owens family saw greatness in their children and moved to Cleveland, Ohio to pursue a better life than the one that they were forced to live prior.
When J.C. was just nine years old, he was enrolled in a public school. When his teacher introduced herself to him and asked his name, he stated that his name was J.C. in his thick Southern accent. His teacher thought he said "Jesse," and his nickname just stuck.
Jesse gained national attention when he was in high school by tying the world record for the 100-yard dash, as well as long-jumping 24 feet 9 1/2 inches (a monumentally impressive feat for a rookie).
Jesse Owens attended the Ohio State University with some financial help from his father. There, he got the nickname "Buckeye Bullet" and won eight different NCAA championships between 1935 and 1936.
On May 25th, 1935, he secured three world records and matched a fourth. This event got him invited to compete on the US Olympic team in Berlin that year.
At the Olympics, Owen smashed the 100-meter dash record (that he previously set) and stood on the pedestal, in Nazi Germany, to receive his gold medal.
He received a standing ovation from close to 100,000 attendees.