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Judge's decision

Published April 23. 2013 05:02PM

Judge A. Richard Caputo, a federal judge in U.S. District Court, Scranton, ruled on Friday that the town of Jim Thorpe must surrender the body of the Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe, for whom the town is named.

The verdict from Judge Caputo comes after Thorpe's two remaining sons, Richard Thorpe and William Thorpe, as well as the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, filed suit against Jim Thorpe borough and borough officials in 2010.

Judge Caputo ruled, "The borough of Jim Thorpe is a 'museum' under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act."

Perhaps Judge Caputo should have taken the matter to trial instead of making himself Father Superior in the case.

He ruled the town benefited from federal funds, thus putting the town under the auspices of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

The lawsuit states that those federal funds were American Recovery and Investment Act funds and PennVEST money to replace water meters in 2009, as well as Federal Emergency Management Agency grants and Community Development Block Grant money.

Nowhere are these funds tied to the upkeep of the Jim Thorpe Mausoleum. In fact, many communities receive such federal funding. To tie these specific grants to the mandates of the Graves Protection and Repatriation Act is unfair.

Thorpe was born on a farm in Prague, Oklahoma, but left the state at a young age.

He died in California. Suppose he had been buried with his wife - his third wife. Would his body still have to go to Indian burial grounds?

His mother gave him the Indian tribal name of Wa-Tho-Huck, or Bright Path. Official records, however, list him as James Francis Thorpe.

Thorpe came home from the 1912 Olympic games with $50,000 worth of trophies, including a Viking ship presented to him by the Czar of Russia.

But a short time later, after the Amateur Athletic Union filed charges of professionalism against him for receiving nominal pay in a summer baseball league, he was stripped of the medals, which were returned to the Olympic Committee.

The people of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk gave up their respective towns' identity in 1954 to rename themselves Jim Thorpe after this great representative of America, who was now broke. In Oklahoma, there had been a proposal to construct a monument in his honor but that was vetoed by that state's governor. It wasn't until 1983, nearly 30 years later, that his medals were restored.

It's true that the people of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk were hoping for rewards that would come with the new identity, including a new hospital and a Football Hall of Fame. When they didn't materialize, the local folks took the matter in stride and persevered.

Most of Jim Thorpe's children seemed happy with what the town did for their father.

His daughter, Grace, told the TIMES NEWS some decades ago she was not happy about some members of the family wanting the body returned. She was working hard to get a museum built in Yale, Okla. for her father, without the body.

Of the efforts to move the body, she said, "I don't feel good about doing that. I know the people in Jim Thorpe and I know they're good people and I know they acted in good faith."

Judge Caputo never directed where the athlete's body must be taken. Will it be given to one of the sons? Will it actually be buried on tribal lands?

Regarding labeling the town as a museum, does that mean an admission fee can be charged for entering the town? Hmmmm.


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