Monday, Mar. 31, 2003

A Victory for the Good Guys

Aug. 9, 1936

I was the captain of the U.S. marathon team in the 1936 Olympics and a special friend of Jesse Owens'. On the boat going to Germany, Jesse said to me, "I want to go up to the deck and exercise, but I don't have any shoes." So I said, "I don't think my shoes will fit you." But that didn't stop him. He tried to get a shoe on, but his foot was so large, it broke my shoe right in half. He apologized, and I got it sewed up. It cost me 50 cents, and I got a souvenir.

When I finished the marathon, Hitler waved to me, and I thumbed my nose at him. That's my claim to fame. But Jesse told me, "Kelley, Hitler waved to me, and I waved back." That's actually what happened. When he won his fourth medal that day, after setting three world records, Jesse was the hero of the whole Games. To everyone. Except for Hitler. The dictator looked almost unbeatable at the time, but Jesse's victories upset his theory about an Aryan master race. Jesse Owens was the greatest track athlete we have ever had. But he was also a great hero for everybody concerned. I'm proud to have been his friend.

Kelley, 95, competed in 61 Boston Marathons, winning in 1935 and 1945.