Born: Jan. 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky
Muhammad Ali is best known as one of the greatest heavyweight boxers ever and probably the wittiest, most eloquent boxer ever. However, Ali was also a champion outside of the ring, fighting for religious freedom and racial justice, aided by his magnetic personality, generosity and fearlessness.
After winning his first world heavyweight championship in 1964 at the age of 22, Ali joined the Nation of Islam, changing his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. In 1967, he refused to be drafted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. (He famously said “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.”) Ali was arrested and stripped of his boxing title.
After his conviction was overturned in 1971, Ali became the first fighter to win the world heavyweight championship on three occasions.
Note from the WebRanger
When I worked as a teacher for the Seattle School District, I was horrified by the waste, corruption and tyranny I saw all around me. Wanting to make a difference, I became a politicial activist.
In 2015, I ran for a seat on the famously corrupt Seattle School Board. The statement I submitted for the Voters Pamphlet began with one of Muhammad Ali’s most famous quotes: “The Viet Cong never called me nigger.”
The King County election authorities censored it, changing nigger to nig---. (You can see a copy of my opening paragraph in the Voters Pamphlet below.)
I never received a single complaint about using the N-word in my statement, though some local Zionist groups howled with rage over my comments on Jewish corruption.
In 2016, I ran for office again, this time gunning for Washington State Governor. I put a copy of my statement from the 2015 Voters Pamphlet, along with a photo of Muhammad Ali, on the home page of my campaign website, at wwww.governor5.com.
Tillie Naputi-Pullar, Thurston County Elections Manager, informed me she was banning the statement I submitted for the Voters Pamphlet. I stood my ground, and they relented, after consulting with an attorney (who probably asked, “What the Hell were you thinking?!”)
A few days earlier, I had received a letter from King County Councilmember (and former military officer) Pete von Reichbauer, inviting me to join him in celebrating the U.S. military on Memorial Day. It was an obvious jab; I’m a well known anti-war activist and general critic of the U.S. military.
I wish I could have debated Naputi-Pullar and Reichbauer, with Muhammad Ali by my side. We could have taught them a lot about patriotism, duty and free speech. Of course, those kinds of people almost never engage in fair debates in public.
In the meantime, Muhammad Ali will never be forgotten; his compassion — backed up by his fiery passion — are no less memorable than his epic bouts in the ring.
My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape or kill my mother and father.... How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.