Although he wasn't given a scholarship, his coaches encouraged Owens to attend Ohio State University. They helped his father find a job, and Owens himself worked three part-time jobs to pay for school and support himself, his wife Minnie Ruth, whom he married in 1931, and their daughter. While at OSU he had eight NCAA championships, four each in 1935 and 1936. At a Big Ten track meet in May 1935 he set three world records and tied a fourth. Despite this success, he was not allowed to live on campus, and when travelling with the team would be forced to stay in segregated hotels and eat on the team bus instead of in restaurants with the rest of the team.
Writing in Ebony magazine, Lerone Bennett, Jr., said that the Berlin games
"...would become a legend and would be passed on from generation to generation, growing in the telling, the story of an incredible moment of truth when the son of a sharecropper and the grandson of slaves temporarily derailed the Nazi juggernaut and gave the lie to Hitler's theories on Aryan (read White) supremacy.... [Owens's] story, which will be told as long as men and women celebrate grace and courage, was more than a sports story. It was politics, history even, played out on an international stage with big stakes riding on every contest."Nevertheless, Owens returned to a segregated America. President Roosevelt ignored his triumph, and after a ticker-tape parade in New York City, he had to take the freight elevator to attend the reception in his honor at the Waldorf-Astoria. While the rest of the Olympic track team went on to compete in Sweden, he followed up endorsement offers. These caused his amateur status to be revoked, and without the possibility of future competition the offers were withdrawn. To support his family and earn money to finish college, Owens ran exhibition races against horses, trucks, cars and motorcycles.
"People say that it was degrading for an Olympic champion to run against a horse, but what was I supposed to do? I had four gold medals, but you can't eat four gold medals."He invested in a dry-cleaning store and the West Coast (Negro) Baseball League but neither did well, and he filed for bankruptcy and was later prosecuted for back taxes. In 1942 he became the director of minority employment for the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, and in 1950 moved to Chicago as a salesman for the Leo Rose Sporting Goods Co.
obituary in the New York Times, William Oscar Johnson is quoted as calling him a "professional good example".
During the 1968 Olympics Owens drew criticism from African Americans for not supporting the black power salute of sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos. In his 1970 autobiography Blackthink he said, "The black fist is a meaningless symbol. When you open it, you have nothing but fingers – weak, empty fingers. The only time the black fist has significance is when there's money inside. There's where the power lies." Another, more militant, book was published in 1972 entitled I Have Changed My Mind.
"I always loved running -- it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs."