Yea , well , that's a whole subject in itself . AND , I don't want to get this thread kicked into the Political forum , so I'll leave it alone.........
Ali , (or Cassius Clay) was at his zenith when I was a teenager (mid '70s) . Even though I was young , I found the boasting arrogance remarkable . But more provocative was his public treatment of Joe Frazier . The names called & insults thrown are things I can't even repeat here .
Yea , it was a different time , but this guys mouth was something else !
I actually got to know Muhammad Ali and his wife, Lonnie personally, beginning in the early 1990's. They were neighbors for a long time and although they still own the property, they have resided in the Scottsdale, Az area for the last few years due to Muhammad's declining health. In reality, Muhammad Ali was very different in person than his "stage act".
I can tell you that I was impressed with his boxing skills, but very much turned off by his bravado and boastful and arrogance before I actually met and got to know him personally. Much of what you saw was his "Stage Persona" and I can honestly say that I was impressed with his genuinely kind and giving personality. Mrs Bear and I knew Muhammad and Lonnie well enough to have dinner with them several years go (probably 10 or 12 years ago now) and I saw nothing but humbleness and kindness in both Muhammad and his wife over several years.
I have several photo's of the four of us together but since I won't post any photo's of Mrs. Bear and I on the web, I can't share them. When I first met Muhammad and shook his hand, it was like shaking hands with a catchers mitt. I am a big guy and he and I were about the same physical size, but his hands were freaking HUGE. I can't even imagine being on the receiving end of one of his punches during his fighting career. His upper body size, the width of his shoulders and his arms sizes and strength, even in retirement, were intimidating. But he was always kind and compassionate. One of the photo's I have of him and I he is throwing a punch towards me and we are facing each other as if we are squaring off and I can honestly say, I am glad it is only a staged photo. But it is a photo I really enjoy.
We would frequently see Muhammad and Lonnie at charitable events and social events in the area. But we also frequently would see Muhammad and Lonnie just in the normal course of life, at Dairy Queen and McDonalds, the grocery store and we also both used the same Veterinarian for our animals. On numerous occasions, I personally witnessed Muhammad spend time with anyone who would approach him and he often would have parents bring their children to his home and he would give them autographed photo's and even personally autographed boxing gloves, etc.
When I would contact him and ask for his support by donating either autographed items or his time for a charity, he ALWAYS helped. He helped Christian Churches, Animal Organizations, Scholarship Programs, public schools, anything of a charitable nature that benefited the local area. He NEVER refused, never complained and never denied anyone of the time or opportunity to meet him, even as his health declined (except in the last few years as his health really became problematic). I once asked him if he was ever bothered by people approaching him and asking for photo's or autograph's and he replied "I owe it to them for their support and kindness and it is the least I can do for what has been done for me." He really enjoyed performing magic tricks and was very good. He shared these with people and especially children when he was out in public.
I have numerous items which I got directly from Muhammad including the original Jazz music score written just for him and his wife which was part of his documentary. I have the original recording (Master) and also the accompanying original sheet music which Muhammad Signed. Muhammad received a special award from the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences (The Academy Award) as his documentary, about the Rumble in the Jungle won an Academy Award for best Documentary. The documentary was titled "When we were Kings". He gave us the Award from the Academy in exchange for us making a Charitable Donation to his Foundation to provide scholarships to deserving students.
I am glad we got the chance to actually meet him and know him. When it came to boxing, he truly was the G.O.A.T., which was the name of his management company, Greatest of All Time. I have met several big celebrities and I can honestly say he was the most down to earth and genuine of any I have ever met. Sadly, his close friend, Rich Kepner, who restored his classic Rolls Royce which is now on display in his Museum in Louisville, KY just passed away two weeks ago at the age of 69. I knew Rich well, worked with him on numerous occasions. Muhammad Ali still own the Estate which was built by a Chicago Mobster in the 1930's. While he hasn't been there in several years due to his declining health, the estate remains well kept and maintained and the location of his G.O.A.T. operations.
While he objected to the Vietnam war, which was his right, he faced the consequences and didn't simply run to Canada or elsewhere, as some who objected, did. He paid a tremendous price, both personally and professionally, but he stood up for what he believes in, which is something more people need to do. Frankly, I don't care if someone is a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or Agnostic, as long as they don't try and force their beliefs on me, I support their right to choose. His choice to adopt the Muslim Religion and change his name was his personal decision and frankly I don't care one way or another. I am more concerned about a person's character and their treatment of their fellow humans.
Ironically, while it is often reported about Muhammad's relationship with the Nation of Islam, which has been headed for decades now by Louis Farrakhan, Muhammad did not follow the radical beliefs of Farrakhan and Muhammad Ali had actually separated himself from Elijah Muhammad, as the nation of Islam became more militant and radical. Elijah Muhammad is the long time leader of NOI prior to Louis Farrakhan and is the person who "granted" Muhammad Ali his Muslim Name.
Nation of Islam, frankly, are parasites who extort money from famous and or wealthy black Muslims and few "mainstream" people will have anything to do with either NOI or Farrakhan. To judge Muhammad Ali based upon his time with the Nation of Islam in the 1960's and 1970's is an unfair judgement of who Muhammad Ali truly was. He severed his relationship with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam in the 1970's. To judge Muhammad's choice of the Muslim religion in the 1960's based upon the recent issues of the Radical Islamic terrorists is not only unjust, it is completely unfair. It's personally very offensive to me that anyone would even link the two. Muhammad Ali is no more responsible for the statements of Louis Farrakhan or the actions of Islamic Terrorists than any of us Christian's are responsible for the acts of Eric Rudolph, the infamous Olympic Park Bomber and self proclaimed Christian terrorist who terrorized the south in the 1990's.
A perfect example of the difference between the "Stage Persona" and the real Muhammad Ali is his long time friendship with "Smokin Joe" Frazier. Once Muhammad retook his Heavy Weight title from Joe Frazier and despite all of the taunting and fight hype, Muhammad always made sure that Joe Frazier and his family were financially assisted when Joe's career ended and he fell upon tough financial times. In the media, they acted like they hated one another, which of course sells tickets and builds fight hype, but in reality, they were close friends who respected one another.
In many ways, Muhammad's relationship with Howard Cosell was exactly the same way. They were rough on one another in front of the camera's, but it was Howard Cosell who called Muhammad Ali at home in 1971 to inform him of the Supreme Court's unanimous ruling in Ali's favor related to his conviction and criminal sentencing for his refusal to honor the draft induction. They respected one another and considered each other a friend.
I find Muhammad Ali's death very sad. I genuinely feel his complete contribution to society over his entire lifetime and what he did for his fellow man, often out of the spot light and without any publicity or public recognition, far outweigh his acts and deeds, much earlier in his life, which many found objectionable and for many, were at the time, very unpopular. I think it is very important to consider the time and circumstances when looking at people's historical acts. Their acts must be judged in context with the circumstances and issues at the time when they occurred and not necessarily based upon today's position on issues.
Despite what others may think, I find his death sad and the loss of a good man. And I knew him.