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William Thorpe, Son of Jim Thorpe, Says Native American Olympics Was “Dad’s Dream”

Susan Shannon

William Thorpe, Jim Thorpe’s oldest living son, sat on the reviewing stand with tribal chiefs and other dignitaries from the native world to watch as Native American athletes from 61 tribes from across the nation to participate in the opening ceremonies for the second annual Jim Thorpe Native American Games. 

A smiling and happy 85 year old whose energy belies his age, now lives in Arlington, Texas. “I get up to Oklahoma here probably about three or four times a year. Different programs they have, they have the Jim Thorpe Awards Program, sports award program, stuff like that,” Thorpe said.

Thorpe was manning a table during the basketball games in the Abe Lemmons Arena on the Oklahoma City University campus.  Souvenirs of the Jim Thorpe Native American Games were being sold.  He signed autographs and took pictures with kids and their families.

“I enjoy coming up. And especially for these Native American Games,” Thorpe said. “Its really wonderful to sit and watch these, these kids and a lot of them are really good athletes. I mean they have a chance to participate and that's a big thing.”

“They can say, ‘well, I went to Oklahoma and I participated in the Jim Thorpe Native American Games’ and that's what its about,” Thorpe said. “That was one of Dad's wishes years and years ago, he mentioned this a number of times, that he would like to see a junior Olympics for Native American children. And this basically is kind of falling in that line.”

This past year the Thorpe family has been in the news as they try to bring their father’s body home to rest in Oklahoma, in his Sac and Fox homeland.

“Right now, uh, I think everything is looking to be in our favor,” Thorpe said.  “The judge ruled that as far as the body concerned, it should be returned to Oklahoma and they gave Jim Thorpe, P.A. 30 day appeal time. So they appealed it. Now its in appeal and once that's settled, I mean whichever way that appeal goes, then that's it.”

“I mean if the appeal goes in our favor, then we'll bring his body back. But, we have not established really anything at this time because its a really early to do that, “ Thorpe said.

“I mean trying to make all the arrangements, things like that and then not have it come true is really kind of an effort. And it really wouldn't take that much time to, once we get his body here, to put it to rest in a temporary spot until we get everything, his monument and everything else set up.”

Thorpe looked back at the basketball games and said, “Dad would’ve loved this.”

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