Muhammad Ali

A hometown hero is being laid to rest in Louisville, Ky., as Muhammad Ali, the boxer and humanitarian, is buried Friday. Fans came to the city from far and wide to pay their respects as Ali's body passed by on its way to a private burial.

Ali died one week ago, at age 74; at a memorial service in the KFC Yum Center in downtown Louisville, the friends he'd chosen to speak — including Billy Crystal, Bryant Gumbel, and Sen. Orrin Hatch — discussed Ali's talents and, more especially, his expansive humanity and his navigation of a troubled era in America's history.

You can hear the event as part of an NPR special hosted by Melissa Block (see link above). The memorial also featured eulogies from Ali's wife, Lonnie, and Louisville restaurateur John Ramsey. Religious and cultural leaders also spoke. The final eulogy was delivered by former President Bill Clinton.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Thousands gathered at Freedom Hall on Thursday for a Muslim funeral prayer service in honor of Muhammad Ali.

A diverse crowd gathered for the service, which was open to the public and held at the site of Ali’s last hometown fight in 1961. Notable figures from Ali’s life also attended, including boxing promoter Don King and civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Salaam Bhatti came from New York City to attend.

“Muhammad Ali became a household name, and essentially he was the first Muslim a lot of people knew in life,” Bhatti said. “And now in death, his funeral is the first Muslim funeral prayer service many will get to witness. And it’s something that he would be so proud of.”

Nancy Demartra from Louisville attended with several friends to honor The Champ, and also to make a statement.

Credit J. Stephen Conn / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

An effort is underway in Kentucky to replace a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the Capitol Rotunda with a tribute to boxing legend MuhammadAli. 

Lexington attorney and former State Treasurer Jonathan Miller has begun an online petition seeking the change.  Miller says Ali’s recent death has more people talking about his place in history. 

"People have been reminded that he wasn't just a boxer, but indeed made a profound influence on American policy," Miller told WKU Public Radio.  "They've also been reminded that he's a Kentuckian.  He was born here, grew up here, and will rest in peace here."

So far, about 600 Kentuckians have signed the petition which Miller plans to deliver to Governor Matt Bevin and legislative leaders. 

While several lawmakers supported an attempt to remove the Davis statue from the Capitol last summer, the state Historic Properties Commission voted to leave the statue in place.

WKU Public Radio is carrying live coverage of Ali’s memorial service in Louisville Friday. You can hear that coverage from 1:00-3:00 p.m. central, 2:00-4:00 p.m. eastern time.

Aide to Read Letter from Obama at Ali Memorial Service

Jun 8, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

President Barack Obama won't be attending Muhammad Ali's memorial service, but he and first lady Michelle Obama are sending a letter with a close aide to be read at Friday's service.

White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett will represent the president at the service in Louisville, Kentucky. The White House says Jarrett knew Ali personally.

White House spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman says the Obamas are unable to attend because they'll be at their daughter Malia's high school graduation ceremony in Washington.

Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell says Ali's widow, Lonnie, and Obama have spoken by phone and that she appreciated the president's "kind words and condolences."

Gunnell says two of Ali's daughters, Rasheda and Maryum, will speak at the service, as well as Islamic studies scholar Timothy Gianotti. Former President Bill Clinton, a longtime friend, will deliver the eulogy.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Keep Memory Alive

The president of Turkey and king of Jordan joined the long line of world leaders, religious figures and superstars set to speak at Muhammad Ali's funeral Friday.

Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell announced funeral details at a news conference Monday.

California imam and scholar Zaid Shakir will preside over the service at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.

Speaking at the funeral will be representatives of multiple faiths, including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Mormonism and Catholicism. They will be followed by Ali's wife, Lonnie Ali; daughter Maryum Ali; actor Billy Crystal; sportscaster Bryant Gumbel; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

President Bill Clinton will deliver a eulogy.

Muhammad Ali To Be Buried In Louisville Friday

Jun 5, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Funeral plans have been set for legendary boxer and humanitarian Muhammad Ali.

The Louisville native died late Friday evening at a Phoenix hospital of septic shock after battling respiratory problems. He was 74.

News of Ali’s death drew hundreds of mourners to the boxing legend’s boyhood home in West Louisville and the Muhammad Ali Center in the city’s downtown. Flags in the city are flying at half-staff, and elected officials from across the state called his death a huge loss for Louisville and the world.

Prior to the funeral service, a procession will carry Ali’s casket through the streets of Louisville. The procession will begin at 9 a.m. Friday on Bardstown Road and travel west to 34th street before returning to Cave Hill Cemetery.

Ali will be buried in Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery. His burial will be preceded by a public funeral at the KFC Yum Center in downtown Louisville. The service will begin at 2 p.m. and will have limited seating. Information on tickets is not yet available.

The funeral will also be live streamed via the Ali Center’s website.

Kent Gavin/Getty Images

Maybe it was the way his life transected areas that define America – race and religion; war and sports – or perhaps it was his own love for words. Whatever the reason, Muhammad Ali’s life and career inspired writing that was nearly as captivating as the man himself.

With Ali – The Greatest – now dead at age 74, here’s a list of some of the best stories written about him. Ali’s large personality was perfectly suited to books, such as Norman Mailer’s The Fight. For this subjective list, we’re looking at shorter pieces. Feel free to share your favorites in the comment section.

‘Lawdy, Lawdy, He’s Great’Mark Kram in Sports Illustrated, 1975

“True to his plan, arrogant and contemptuous of an opponent’s worth as never before, Ali opened the fight flat-footed in the center of the ring, his hands whipping out and back like the pistons of an enormous and magnificent engine. Much broader than he has ever been, the look of swift destruction defined by his every move, Ali seemed indestructible. Once, so long ago, he had been a splendidly plumed bird who wrote on the wind a singular kind of poetry of the body, but now he was down to earth, brought down by the changing shape of his body, by a sense of his own vulnerability, and by the years of excess. Dancing was for a ballroom; the ugly hunt was on. Head up and unprotected, Frazier stayed in the mouth of the cannon, and the big gun roared again and again.”

Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Keep Memory Alive

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, 74, is being treated for respiratory problems at a hospital in the Phoenix area – and now comes word that his condition could be more serious than was first believed when he was admitted on Thursday.

Today, the AP says of Ali, "two people familiar with his condition say [these] may be more serious problems than his previous hospital stays."

Ali's treatment could also be complicated by symptoms of Parkinson's, the debilitating disease from which he has suffered for more than 30 years. Before Thursday, Ali's last known multi-day stint in the hospital was in January 2015.

Widespread concern for Ali blossomed on Twitter and elsewhere Friday, after celebrity gossip website Radar Online published a story saying that the beloved boxer was on life support – a characterization that hasn't been confirmed or reported elsewhere. According to NBC News, the boxer's family has gathered at the hospital – and a "well-informed source" tells the network that Ali is in "grave condition."

Muhammad Ali Back in Hospital for "Follow Up Care"

Jan 16, 2015

A spokesman for Muhammad Ali says the boxing great is back in the hospital for follow-up care related to a urinary tract infection.

Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell said Thursday that the former heavyweight boxing champion was admitted to an undisclosed hospital earlier this week. He says Ali is expected to be released Friday.

Ali was initially hospitalized on Dec. 20 for what turned out to be a severe urinary tract infection. That hospitalization ended last week.

Gunnell says Ali hopes to celebrate his 73rd birthday on Saturday at one of his homes with family.

The boxing gloves worn by Muhammad Ali in one of his most famous fights are being sold at auction. The Louisville native—then known as Cassius Clay—wore the gloves in 1971 during the first of his three fights against Joe Frazier.

The gloves will be up for bidding July 31 at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland. When the gloves were auctioned in 2012, they  sold for nearly $386,000.

Ali used the gloves in what was called the “Fight of the Century.” Ali and Frazier were both undefeated heading into the event at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Frazier knocked Ali down and won a 15-round decision.

A former boxer and one-time training partner of Muhammad Ali has been killed in a car crash in eastern Kentucky.

Kentucky State Police say 62-year-old Mayfield Pennington's car was struck by a tractor trailer.

Troopers say the tractor trailer struck Pennington's 1977 Corvette as he turned on to U.S. 23 near Stanville. Troopers say Pennington was pronounced dead at the scene Tuesday.

Pennington's professional boxing record was 48-16. He defeated former World Welterweight and Middleweight Champion Emile Griffith in 1977.

Ali Center in Louisville Announces Scholarship Program

Dec 11, 2012

The Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville is funding a $10,000 scholarship open to students around the world.

The center says the Generation Ali Global Citizenship Scholarship Program will give 15 students a chance to continue their education. Eight awards will be for U.S. students, including two local recipients, and seven for international students. The local awards will be designated as Ina Brown Bond Scholars.

Recipients will be asked to discuss their essay topics at the Ali Center and host an online forum for a year through the center's website.

A fan of Muhammad Ali has acquired an important piece of memorabilia: the boxing legend's boyhood home. Louisville realtor Dave Lambrechts told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Las Vegas real estate investor Jared Weiss closed on the property the day before. He said Weiss paid $70,000 for the small white house with a sagging front porch overhang in a western Louisville neighborhood made up of mostly neat, modest homes.

Boxing great Muhammad Ali is hoping to inspire a new generation of leaders through a social media campaign. The campaign, called Generation Ali, is being launched in conjunction with the Summer Olympics in London. It will link young leaders around the world.

The Muhammad Ali Center and a Michigan art gallery have settled a dispute over whether and how to display more than 180 pieces chronicling the champion's career that were donated to the center.