Family Fights To Bring Athlete Jim Thorpe's Remains To Oklahoma

Monday, November 28th 2011, 5:20 pm
By: Craig Day

There are new developments in the effort to have the body of Oklahoma native son Jim Thorpe returned to our state. A federal judge is allowing a lawsuit filed by two of Jim Thorpes' sons and the Sac and Fox Nation to move forward. 

In Yale, Oklahoma, there are many ties to legendary athlete Jim Thorpe. The home where he lived is now a museum, and there are relatives like Gail Hendrix, who is Thorpes' great granddaughter. 

The family wants Thorpe's body moved from the community of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania and returned to Oklahoma.  

"The whole state itself and this area where he is from, really was a part of him," said Gail Hendrix.

Hendrix is pleased a judge in Pennsylvania is allowing a lawsuit to move forward that could eventually mean Jim Thorpes' body would return to the Sooner State.  

In a deal to draw tourists, Thorpes' widow agreed in 1953 to have his body buried in Pennsylvania as two communities merged to form the town Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. It's an agreement the family wants overturned.

"To have him brought back here where he is from and to his native land is what everybody would like because this is where we come to remember," said Thorpes' great granddaughter Gail Hendrix.

A U.S. District judge ruled the lawsuit could continue under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Many people in Yale hope the lawsuit is successful.

"I think it would be a good thing for him to be back here; his home is here," said Yale resident Charlie Smith. 

"That would do well for family; do well for his person and his own personal history," said Neils Christensen of Yale.

Thorpes' sons have said they want to honor their fathers wish to be buried in the Old Sac and Fox nation, which is in East Central Oklahoma. Hendrix agrees that's where his final resting place should be. 

"This is where his home was, and this is where he always came back to so I believe he would have wanted to come back here," she said.