Jesse Owens' presidential honor goes for record price at auction

A Presidential Medal of Freedom given to Jesse Owens by President Gerald Ford in 1976 sold for $128,617 at an auction on Sunday morning.

The price, paid by an undisclosed winner and sold by SCP Auctions, was a record for the medal, which along with the Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor bestowed on a civilian in the United States.

Owens' three daughters consigned both the Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal, which are rarely sold, to the auction house. The Congressional Gold Medal, given to Owens posthumously by President George Bush in 1990, sold for $85,592.

Owens, an African-American, famously won four track and field gold medals at the 1936 Olympics, which took place in Germany during the reign of Adolf Hitler.

In giving the medal to Owens, Ford said Owens "personally achieved what no other statesmen, journalist or general achieved at that time -- he forced Hitler to leave the stadium rather than acknowledge the superb victories of a black American."

The story of Hitler leaving was later debunked, as Owens received medals when the German leader wasn't in attendance.

One of Owens' daughters, Marlene Owens Rankin, told ESPN this week that parting with the awards was a tough decision but that the funds would be passed on to Owens' five grandchildren.

"We are three elderly ladies, and when we are gone, how do you divide the Presidential Medal of Freedom into five pieces?" Rankin said.

Selling it, she said, was the best way of "sharing with our children their grandfather's legacy."

Owens died in March 1980.