Armistead S. Morehead, a son of Presley and Mary Morehead had sexual relations with his black slave, Dinah.(7.44) The result was the birth of a son whom they named, Thomas. When he reached adulthood, Thomas was granted his freedom by his birth father, Armistead Morehead. Almost thirty years after serving in the Union Army during the American Civil War, Thomas married Lizzie Bobb. Thomas and Lizzie raised a family of four children, the eldest daughter of which was named Birdie. Birdie married John L. Grady. Abe Grady was an Irishman who resided at the village of Turnpike, in Ennis, in County Clare. During the famine period, Abe emigrated from Ireland to the United States, and settled in Kentucky. There, he met and married a black woman who had been emancipated during the American Civil War. Their union resulted in a son, John L. Grady. John and Birdie Grady gave birth to a daughter: Odessa Lee. Odessa married a fellow black by the name of Cassius Marcellus Clay, and they gave birth to a single child, a son they named Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.
Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., was born on the 17th of January 1942 at Louisville, Kentucky. The child began his boxing career around the age of twelve. The story goes that his bicycle was stolen and he made statements that he would “whup whoever stole it.” His statements were overheard by Joe Martin, a white policeman, who decided to channel the black youth’s anger into the disciplined sport of boxing.
The boxer, Cassius Clay, aka Muhammad Ali
~ Original source unknown
Cassius channeled all his energy into the sport, and although he graduated 376th out of a class of 391, he soon was making a name for himself in the sports world. He participated in one hundred and eight bouts of amateur boxing between the years 1955 and 1960. His impressive list of wins included six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two National Amateur Athletic Union championships, and two National Golden Gloves crowns. The capping achievement was his winning the Gold Medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Olympic Games held at Rome, Italy. It is claimed that he threw the newly won gold medal into the Ohio River after being refused service at a Louisville diner because he was not a white person.
In October 1960 Cassius Clay entered the arena of professional heavyweight boxing in a fight with Tunny Hunsaker. The judges decision was in favor of Clay after six rounds. He went on to win the next eighteen bouts, fifteen of which were achieved by knockouts. Then, at the age of twenty-two, on 25 February 1964, Clay knocked out Sonny Liston. Perhaps as noteworthy as the fight itself was the colorful poetry that Clay made up as predictions of his impending win over Liston. During the seventh round, Clay knocked out Liston, and took the heavyweight championship title. And then, in a move that astounded many of his fans, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., changed his name to Muhammad Ali Haj. He did so to announce to the world that he had joined the Nation of Islam. At that time he made the statement that: “Why should I keep my white slavemaster’s name visible and my black ancestors invisible, unknown, unhonored?” (The sentiment, of course, was noble, but his ‘white slavemaster’s name’ was, of course, Morehead rather than Clay.)
As Muhammad Ali, he defended the heavyweight boxing champion title, fighting nine times during the next two years. In fact, he lost the title not to a boxing opponent, but rather it was revoked because he refused to be inducted into the United States military. His sentence was a five-year prison term, plus the loss of the heavyweight title. The United States Supreme Court reversed his conviction for draft evasion in 1971, but he had started boxing again the previous year. He easily won matches with Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonaven, and it looked like he was capable of winning back the heavyweight championship title.
Muhammad Ali’s career was one consisting mostly of wins, although he did experience losses a few times. The first loss of his entire career came on 08 March 1971, when he succumbed to Joe Frazier in the fifteenth round. But that was only a slight setback. On 30 October 1974, at Kinshasa, Zaire (aka the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Ali won a knockout victory over George Foreman in the eighth round. That victory signaled the comeback of Muhammad Ali. Over the next four years, he defended his heavyweight champion title ten times. One of those victories took place on 01 October 1975 in the Philippines. Ali won over Joe Frazier after fifteen rounds. In a fifteen round decision in favor of Leon Spinks, Ali lost the heavyweight crown at Las Vegas, Nevada on 15 February 1978. Spinks was an Olympic champion and just as cocky as Ali had been when he started. But Spinks’ victory was shortlived when, on 15 September of that same year, Ali won after fifteen rounds in a rematch at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisianna.
On 27 June 1979, Muhammad Ali announced that he was retiring from boxing, much to the dismay of his fans. But then, on 02 October 1980 he entered the ring at Las Vegas to fight the new heavyweight champion, Larry Holmes. He suffered a major defeat at the hands of Holmes, and was knocked out by Holmes in the eleventh round. Apparently not able to read the handwriting on the wall, Ali fought Trevor Berbick in December 1981. After ten rounds, the fight was called in favor of Berbick, and Ali retired permanently.
Muhammad Ali is perhaps best known by fans and non-fans alike worldwide for the rhymes he made up to badger his opponents. His most famous one was delivered to George Foreman prior to their match in 1974: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can't hit what his eyes can't see. Now you see me, now you don't. George thinks he will, but I know he won't."
As a result of the repeated blows to his head over so many years of boxing, Ali suffered from Parkinson’s, a neurological condition that causes tremors, memory lapses and confusion. Because of this, medical organizations and other groups have lobbied for the mandatory use of head gear or the elimination of the sport of boxing altogether.
Ali’s career as a boxer may have ended in 1981, but his career in the spotlight did not. Despite the restrictions to his motor skills imposed by the Parkinson’s syndrome, Ali has used his wit and personality to good ends. He traveled in November 1990 to Iraq to plead with Saddam Hussein to give up on his designs on Kuwait. He acted as an ambassador for Operation USA in Rwanda in 1996.
Muhammad Ali was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. He was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983. And in 1995 the Muhammad Ali Museum opened in Louisville. He was honored to light the flame that opened the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia.