I was traveling down south visiting Health Centers and landed in the Memphis Airport and was walking between arrivals and departures when I saw a man with a gaggle of young children beside him. Walking by I glanced and by the time I got another ten paces I stopped and pivoted back to confirm my amazement. There in the middle of the Memphis airport was Muhammad Ali signing autographs for a group of young children. I looked around and saw no cameras or entourage just the Champ alone. I flashed back to listening to the radio as a thirteen year old on February 25, 1964 and the woops I shouted when Sonny Liston didn’t come out for the seventh round and Ali became reigning heavyweight champion at 22. With admiration I remember Howard Cosell as one of a few reporters who called him by his proper name. His calling and religious belief led him to refuse the draft in the prime of his career, he showed the world the courage of his convictions. His stance on the war, race and injustice moved people around the globe.
I joined that group of kids and waited patiently and thanked the Champ for all he did to help us grow up in this country and took that precious handwritten signature and placed it in my heart with all the other memories he engendered within us.
In case you never listened to his rendition of “Stand by Me” . I won’t be afraid – just as long as you stand by me. He was never afraid as we all stood by him.
Peace and Health,