FAMOUS FRIDAY: Muhammad Ali
When my mom was my age she had the incredible opportunity to work for the great Muhammad Ali as his boxing career winded down. Muhammad rose to fame as the result of the incredible boxing skills that earned him the nickname “the Greatest”. He was three time heavyweight champion of the world even though he had to sit out what should have been his athletic prime. But being an incredibly gifted athlete only takes a man so far. Muhammad had many other unique gifts that contributed to him becoming the most famous man on the planet and one of the most loved people to ever live. Muhammad had the gift of gab that kept people entertained and earned him a second nickname, “the Louisville Lip”. He also had deep conviction and courage that compelled him to stand up and speak out in favor of civil rights and against war. On of the most meaningful contributions he made to society was the impact he had on the self esteem of African Americans at a time where some in the US still considered them to be second class citizens. Muhammad was proud of being black and made others proud too.
When you are as famous as Muhammad Ali, the world knows a lot about you, but not many people know that the Champ was actually multiracial. His grandfather, Abe Grady, was a white Irishman from Ennis, Ireland and emigrated to the United States in the 1860s where he made his home in Kentucky and married an African-American woman who had been freed from a life of slavery. Grady and his wife had a daughter named Odessa Lee. Odessa married Cassius Clay Sr and on January 17, 1942, Cassius junior was born. He was named after his father and a famous Kentucky abolitionist but later changed his name to Muhammad Ali when he converted to the Islam faith.
Muhammad visited Ireland a few times later in life and the people of Ennis made him the first freeman of the town in its 150,000 year existence and consider him their favorite son. in 2009 he was given the Freedom of Ennis. A monument marking the spot where Muhammad’s great grandfather lived was also unveiled by Ali during his 2009 visit.
The Greatest, Muhammad Ali passed away at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona at 74 after a long and difficult battle with Parkinson’s disease. He will never be forgotten.
Photo credit: Irishcentral.com
Photo credit: my mom and Muhammad from her personal collection