Jan 12, 2022

Construction of a Jesse Owens memorial plaza in Rockefeller Park is scheduled to be completed this year.

Jesse Owens, a Cleveland track star, received four gold medals in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. With each medal he was awarded an oak tree seedling, only one of which is known to still exist and is now fully grown. It is located at Rhodes High School where Jesse Owens used to train.

The Rockefeller Park memorial features a Jesse Owens tree genetically identical to the four he received in Berlin. It was propagated from the Rhodes tree, which is now coming to the end of its natural life, and planted at the memorial site last year.

The site is on the north side of the Rockefeller Park Lagoon. Included in the design will be a podium seat wall that will feature two quotes from Jesse Owens, reflecting on the importance of working hard towards your dreams and the invisible battles we all face.

City Council in December (2021) approved a property-adoption agreement that will allow University Circle Inc. to construct and maintain the plaza. Local artist Angelica Pozo and DERU landscape architects will complete the design. The goal is to break ground around Arbor Day, April 29th.

After his Olympic career, Owens was a playground director for the city's parks and recreation department, as well as an advocate for recreation opportunities for youth

During World War II he was appointed as director of a national fitness program for African Americans

He was named Ambassador of Sports by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955 and toured the world promoting the virtues of amateur sports programs with a particular emphasis on opportunities for underprivileged youth. Owens received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Gerald Ford in 1976.

The project is through a partnership between the City of Cleveland, Cleveland City Council, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Holden Forests & Gardens, Holden Parks Trust, Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation, Famicos Foundation, and University Circle Inc.