Jaycees’ Petition

I had occasion to talk with Robert W. Wheeler, the author of the definitive biography of Jim Thorpe, and used this opportunity to discuss the hearings, the Jaycees, etc. Bob does not know Mr. Sheaffer so cannot comment on his efforts. However, in 1978 he had significant contact with the Jaycees on a national level, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Almost immediately after Jim Thorpe’s Olympic honors were stripped from him in 1913, campaigns were started to restore his medals and his records. Bob recalled that what seemed like hundreds of campaigns involving were such people as Damon Runyon, FDR, and Branch Rickey, but all were unsuccessful. The unsuccessful list includes the one Sheaffer mentioned that was from Yale, OK and was headed by Grace Thorpe.

In 1978, the Jaycees redoubled their efforts and gathered over a million signatures on a petition to have Jim Thorpe’s Olympics triumphs restored. Bo Wheeler recalls that the Jaycees’ petitions were a major part of the nationwide effort which gathered over three and a half million signatures. As part of this effort Bob Wheeler and Jack Thorpe addressed the Jaycees’ national convention. Unfortunately, that was not the year of the final breakthrough. That would happen a few years later when Bob’s wife and researcher-in-her-own-right, Florence Ridlon, found the 1912 Olympic rule book lost in the stacks of the Library of Congress. The rest, as they say, is history.

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