A win for Jim Thorpe's sons clears the way for the return of the "Greatest Athlete in the World's" remains to be returned to Sac and Fox land in Oklahoma.

Jim Thorpe's Sons Win Federal Lawsuit Against Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania


The two surviving children of sports great Jim Thorpe won a critical ruling Friday in federal court that could clear the way for his remains to be removed from a mausoleum in the Pennsylvania town that bears his name and reinterred on American Indian land in Oklahoma, reports the Associated Press

U.S. District Judge Richard Caputo ruled in favor of sons Bill and Richard Thorpe and against Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, a borough in the northeastern part of the state, saying the town itself amounts to a museum under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

The borough may appeal the decision.

Meanwhile, the brothers' attorney, Stephen R. Ward, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, told the AP they will now pursue the legal process to have their father, known as the "Greatest Athlete in the World," returned to Sac and Fox land in central Oklahoma.

“They and their brothers and other members of the family have wanted this and have worked for this for a long time,” Ward said. “They well remember how the wishes of the Indian members of the family were not respected concerning their father’s burial.”

After Jim Thorpe died without a will in 1953 at age 64, third wife Patricia Thorpe made a deal with two merging towns in the Poconos, Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, to have the new town named for him. His remains have been kept for the past six decades in a borough-owned roadside memorial along the Lehigh River.

Caputo wrote that the result may seem at odds with notions of commercial or contract law.

“Congress, however, recognized larger and different concerns in such circumstances, namely, the sanctity of the Native American culture’s treatment of the remains of those of Native American ancestry,” the judge said in his decision. “It did so against a history of exploitation of Native American artifacts and remains for commercial purposes.”

Related story: The Battle Over Jim Thorpe's Remains

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Robert E. Martin's picture
Robert E. Martin
Submitted by Robert E. Martin on
It is about time. The Thorpe family have been deprived of their rights to have their father's remains moved "home".. Welcome home sir.

Jay Paterson's picture
Jay Paterson
Submitted by Jay Paterson on
Sadly all of you people are missing half the story. For the record, Jim Thorpe was only part native American. It is regrettable, and still fixable that a full burial ceremony that was culturally correct was not completed in the chaotic days after his death and that was very very wrong. But, if necessary it can still be done - if the family really cares enough about that part of it. Here or there. Get on with it! Everyday I pass his beautiful memorial with wonderful statues, bronze plaques highlighting his many achievements and visitors stopping to read them, pay respects and take photos. A wonderful memorial to a good man. Now when he was buried, broke I might add, there came not a penny from the State of Oklahoma, his town or most especially his own Sac & Fox Nation whose life time shunning of Thorpe over the Olympic "cheating scandal" perhaps contributed to his unhappiness and ultimate drinking problem. Not one penny. No memorial. No recognition. Nothing - not for 50 years. When the man needed them, they turned their backs. Now, all of you commentators here - consider this. The son who brought the suit has passed away. Now two other sons, who were not interested in being a part of that original claim, have suddenly surfaced. Twice those remaining two sons from a second marriage, and the tribe, have filed for money. Check the court records. On May 20, they entered the latest complaint demanding payment of large sums of money for so called damages and violations. That does not tarnish the man's name? All about money? Further if the Sac & Fox Nation who wanted nothing to do with him in 1953, will promise us right now - and notice they have not and will not - that they will build an equally fitting memorial open to the public, not charge admission to come to a Jim Thorpe Museum (as in making money) - and as God is my witness, he will not be placed in any proximity to a casino (as is rumored) - than I might be willing to listen and reconsider. Remember, Oklahomans, and Sac & Fox tribal members etc. gave nothing to honor or respect the man. The people of Jim Thorpe, from young school children on up, gave nickle after nickle of their own money in a grass roots effort to raise a memorial to honor the man. We charged nothing, and we asked for nothing in return. I want to at least hear from the tribe and the family what so far we are not hearing from them. That this is not about money and not about ways to directly profit from his name. Especially not after waiting around for half a century for this to suddenly occur to them! And tERRY - don't make this about race as you are all so quick to do. Make it about honoring a man. A man who was so badly mistreated in his life time - and does in fact deserve to rest in peace, in the one place that has never mistreated him, and only brings honor to him.