By Mark Schlachtenhaufen
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The two surviving children of sports great Jim Thorpe won a critical ruling Friday in federal court that could clear the way for his remains to be removed from a mausoleum in the Pennsylvania town that bears his name and reinterred on American Indian land in Oklahoma.
U.S. District Judge Richard Caputo ruled in favor of sons Bill and Richard Thorpe and against Jim Thorpe borough in Pennsylvania, saying the town itself amounts to a museum under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
The men’s lawyer, Stephen R. Ward of Tulsa said they will now pursue the legal process to have their father, who won the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics, returned to Sac and Fox land in central Oklahoma.
Messages seeking comment from lawyers for the borough, and top borough officials, were not immediately returned. They could appeal Caputo’s decision.
Ward said the brothers were pleased.
“They and their brothers and other members of the family have wanted this and have worked for this for a long time,” he said. “They well remember how the wishes of the Indian members of the family were not respected concerning their father’s burial.”
After Jim Thorpe died without a will in 1953 at age 64, third wife Patricia Thorpe made a deal with two merging towns, Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, to have the new town named for him. His remains have been there for the past six decades.