An undated photo of Jim Thorpe in a football uniform. / Pro Football Hall of Fame
JIM THORPE, Pennsylvania (AP) - The surviving sons of the famous American Indian athlete Jim Thorpe have long fought to get the remains of their father moved to tribal lands in Oklahoma, where he was born, and they recently won a crucial legal victory.
But the town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, isn't letting its Olympian namesake - and one of the 20th century's best athletes - go without a fight. Residents and business owners are helping to raise money for the town's appeal to be filed later this month.
"We have no intention of letting him go," said Anne Marie Fitzpatrick, an organizer of the town's annual Jim Thorpe birthday bash.
Thorpe was a football, baseball and track star who won the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics, then starred as the Indian in low-budget movies and struggled financially toward the end of his life. He died without a will in 1953 at age 64.
After Oklahoma's governor hesitated at the cost of a planned monument to the athlete, third wife Patricia had Thorpe's body removed in the midst of his funeral service and sent it to Pennsylvania. She struck a deal with two merging towns to build a memorial and name the new town after him. His remains are kept in a mausoleum.
The athlete never set foot in the town named after him.
Thorpe's son, Bill Thorpe, said his father expressed a desire to be buried in Oklahoma.
"All this time we've wanted his body back because of the way that it was taken away from us," he said. "And we had no authority."
In April, U.S. District Judge Richard Caputo ruled in favor of Thorpe, his brother Richard, and the Sac and Fox tribe to which their father belonged, saying the town amounts to a museum under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
The town appealed and has found support from Jim Thorpe's grandsons.
"The town has done nothing but honor and respect and love my grandpa," said John Thorpe. "The state of Oklahoma did not want to erect a mausoleum or do anything to honor him. They weren't willing to do what the town of Jim Thorpe did."
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Read the original story: Jim Thorpe's sons get victory in bid to move dad's body