"For the last quarter-century, the sons of the great Native American athlete Jim Thorpe have tried to persuade the picturesque northeastern Pennsylvania town bearing their father's name to return his remains to Shawnee, Okla., where he asked to be buried. But their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
Now they are taking their case to federal court in Scranton. Here's hoping they succeed.
Born in 1888 on the Sac and Fox Indian reservation (now part of Oklahoma), Jim Thorpe came to Pennsylvania to attend the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, a boarding school designed to assimilate Indian children into the white mainstream. Thorpe excelled at football there, leading Carlisle to victories over such powerhouses as Harvard, Penn State, and Syracuse.
Thorpe's three surviving sons from his second marriage have always regarded their father's burial in Pennsylvania as the same kind of exploitation that haunted him during his lifetime. They want to give him a simple grave near his parents', a mile from his boyhood home in Shawnee.
For more than two decades, Jack Thorpe, 72, and his brothers, Richard, 77, and Bill, 81, tried to negotiate a settlement with the Carbon County borough. But Mayor Ronald Confer has insisted "it's too late." Borough Council President John McGuire said, "Jim Thorpe is the heart and soul of this town. He's such a part of us that we could never consider losing him."
As a result, Thorpe's sons recently filed suit against the town in U.S. District Court. They have a good case."
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William C. Kashatus: More than a lifetime of troubles
(The Philadelphia Inquirer 5/24)