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Jim Thorpe’s sons win lawsuit over his remains

jimthorpe Getty Images

Jim Thorpe, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who was remembered as “probably the greatest natural athlete the world had seen” when he died in 1953, has for decades been the subject of legal wrangling over what should be done with his remains. On Friday, his two surviving sons won a ruling that will likely result in his body being moved from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma.

Thorpe is currently buried in the town that took his name: Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. That was the wish of his third wife, who was with him when he died.

But Thorpe’s only surviving children, Bill and Richard Thorpe, are both from his second wife. And they have always argued that Thorpe should have been buried on American Indian land in Oklahoma, where he was born and raised. A federal judge’s ruling could clear the way for that to happen.

U.S. District Judge Richard Caputo said in his ruling that the law gives special consideration to “the sanctity of the Native American culture’s treatment of the remains of those of Native American ancestry.”

Playing for coach Pop Warner, Thorpe was an All-American for the Carlisle Indian School in 1911 and 1912. He became a professional football player in 1913 and was chosen in 1920 as the first president of the American Professional Football Association, which would become the National Football League. Thorpe played a total of 52 NFL games as a member of the Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, Oorang Indians, Rock Island Independents, New York Giants and Chicago Cardinals from 1920 to 1928. In 1963 he was chosen as a member of the inaugural class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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21 Responses to “Jim Thorpe’s sons win lawsuit over his remains”
  1. huskersrock1 says: Apr 20, 2013 12:47 PM

    For the love of god leave him alone.

  2. jiveturkeygobbler says: Apr 20, 2013 1:08 PM

    The children should have their wishes honored.

  3. whatchutalkinabouthillis says: Apr 20, 2013 1:12 PM

    Digging up dead bodies is kind of dodgy. Didn’t anyone ask Thorpe where he wanted to be interred?

  4. percell1 says: Apr 20, 2013 1:14 PM

    The people already named their town after him, why move him somewhere they probably wont honor him.

  5. axespray says: Apr 20, 2013 1:25 PM

    From Philly to Oklahoma?

    No, if people were to spread my ashes/or bury me …I’d want ‘em to drop me off at Disney World or Hawaii.

  6. icdogg says: Apr 20, 2013 1:41 PM

    In general I think the decision is right but what bothers me about it is that it comes 60 years after the fact. Is there no statute of limitations on this sort of thing?

  7. bigjimatch says: Apr 20, 2013 1:55 PM

    Yes, and in another 60 years his grandkids can dig him up and move him some place else. kind of like a travel tribute to desecration .

  8. jason49er says: Apr 20, 2013 2:17 PM

    I actually live 10 miles from JT, PA and went to Jim Thorpe High School. Legend has it one of the big reasons they wanted his remains was they were hoping the NFL would decide to have the Pro Football Hall of Fame there too but the building (and all the tourism monies) ended up going to Canton Ohio instead.

    It’s a little suburban town and has grown pretty proud of the Jim Thorpe legend. I was actually in the stands in 2001 when Wheaties came and put on a little ceremony for putting him on the cover of the box. A humongous framed picture of the wheaties box cover ended up going in the school commons.

  9. thestrategyexpert says: Apr 20, 2013 2:40 PM

    Only in America.

  10. packmanfan says: Apr 20, 2013 2:42 PM

    If they really want to honor him and his legacy, then change the names of those teams that are non PC with Indian names.

  11. thesteelers says: Apr 20, 2013 2:49 PM

    This is why we didn’t draft him.

  12. toonloonboon says: Apr 20, 2013 3:21 PM

    digging up an ancient indian? yeah, there’ll be no repercussions for that…

  13. richa52 says: Apr 20, 2013 3:26 PM

    If this occurs, the town of Jim Thorpe should revert to its old name–Mauch Chunk (Indian for bear mountain).

  14. pierrepoint1 says: Apr 20, 2013 3:30 PM

    Spouse trumps children always. I would expect the ruling to be appealed and over turned.

  15. jason49er says: Apr 20, 2013 3:42 PM

    thesteelers says:
    Apr 20, 2013 2:49 PM
    This is why we didn’t draft him.
    —————————————————

    And this is why you are a troll, they didn’t institute the NFL Draft until 1936.

  16. invaiduh says: Apr 20, 2013 4:17 PM

    I live in jt and if he has to go then at least keep the name.
    mauch chunk sounds terrible.

    they should just let him rip

  17. bucfandango says: Apr 20, 2013 6:00 PM

    The Judge should have called Theresa Caputo, the medium broad from Long Island. She’d get the answer from Jim, himself. Piece-a-cake

  18. sagatti says: Apr 20, 2013 6:09 PM

    He was the greatest natural athlete in 1911… He get his wig twisted backward in 2013… Look at him?

  19. stoolerz says: Apr 20, 2013 6:29 PM

    The judge should visit the reservation to see if the residents even bother to take pride in and maintain the reservation befor making a ruling. The reservations here in Montana are run down with wild dogs all over the place.

  20. louellen13 says: Apr 22, 2013 3:26 PM

    . . . ITS WONDERFUL TO KNOW THAT ( THE LATE JIM THORPE / 1888 – 1953 / THORPE PENNSYLVANIA / USA ) THE REMAINS OF THIS NATIVE AMERICAN – WILL BE GOING HOME – AT LONG LAST ( DESTINATION: SHROUD OKLAHOMA ) AND WHAT A GREAT JOB HIS TWO SONS & A FEDERAL JUDGE – DID IN HONOR OF THIS AMERICAN CITIZEN . . .

  21. Radical Grace says: Apr 23, 2013 8:48 AM

    Well.. There is a rumor that there is a casino going up in the area where they want to place his remains!

    All I can say is Mauch Chunk did a very honorable job in taking care of Jim when it appeared that no one else wanted anything to do with him.

    In fact the town and it’s school did a pile of work to help have him selected as Athlete of the Century.

    It really is sad that his sons cannot leave their father rest!

    Enuf said!

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