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Alabama’s sports heroes live on in downtown Birmingham
By Tom Adkinson
April 29, 2022

Bear Bryant and Shug Jordan statue
Bear Bryant and Shug Jordan statue; Image by Tom Adkinson

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – With honored names such as Bear Bryant, Shug Jordan, Bo Jackson and Pat Sullivan, football commands a great deal of attention at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in downtown Birmingham, but an eye-catching piece of sculpture from track and field draws you to an important corner on the first floor of the multi-level attraction.

It’s the depiction of an airborne Jesse Owens competing in the long jump at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Owens, a Black man born in Oakville, Alabama, put the lie to Adolph Hitler’s belief in Aryan racial superiority by winning the gold medal in that event and three others (the 100-meter sprint, the 200-meter sprint and the 4x100-meter relay). As a prelude, the spectacular athlete had set world records in the 100-yard dash, the 220-yard dash and the long jump – while still in high school.

jesse owens
Jesse Owens. Image by Tom Adkinson

The hall of fame recognizes almost 400 athletes, coaches, broadcasters, sportscasters and others from the sporting world. The 2022 honorees will be recognized in May. They include Philip Rivers (nine-time NFL Pro Bowl player), Rusty Greer (15 years with the Texas Rangers, where he accumulated a .305 career batting average) and Jake Peavy (National League Cy Young Award winner in 2007 and twice a player on World Series championship teams). Admission to the hall of fame is free.

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(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available on

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