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NAACP Celebrates the Life of Muhammad Ali

WHEREAS, Cassius Clay was born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942; and

WHEREAS, at age 18, he won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome; and

WHEREAS, in 1963 he released a spoken word album entitled I Am the Greatest; the album was nominated for a Grammy Award. The moniker "The Greatest" stayed with Clay all his life; and

WHEREAS, Clay shocked everyone in February 1964 by upsetting Sonny Liston to become the youngest heavyweight champion ever; he instantly became world-famous; and

WHEREAS, he coined his most famous expression, "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," to describe himself, for although he was big for a boxer, well over 6 feet tall and 220 pounds, he was uncharacteristically graceful, often almost dancing on the canvas; and

WHEREAS, after his initial defeat of Liston, Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali and went on to defend his heavyweight crown eight times in three years. By 1967, Ali was 25 years old, undefeated with 29 wins and zero losses, and a household name known throughout the world; and

WHEREAS, in 1967 he was drafted by the United States Army, which at the time was engaged in the Vietnam war, but refused to enter the service due to his religious beliefs. He was subsequently arrested, tried, and found guilty of draft evasion; and

WHEREAS, he successfully appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which eventually overturned his conviction in 1971; and

WHEREAS, as a result of his refusal to join the U.S. military, boxing officials stripped Muhammad Ali of his title and refused to allow him to fight for four years, a decision which cost him potentially millions of dollars and several important years of his career; and

WHEREAS, Muhammad Ali went on to regain the heavyweight title, and he remains the only three-time lineal heavyweight champion, having won the title in 1964, 1974, and 1978, and being involved in such fights a the "Thrilla in Manila" and the "Rumble in the Jungle"; and

WHEREAS, Ali officially retired in 1981, and in 1984 was diagnosed with Parkinson's syndrome; and

WHEREAS, when he died, on June 3, 2016, Muhammad Ali was widely regarded to be one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th Century; and

WHEREAS, Ali once commented that, "I am America. I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me – black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me."

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the 107th NAACP Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, pauses to celebrate the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali and extends its deepest sympathies to this family, friends, and fans throughout the world; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be placed in the NAACP archives and given to the family of Muhammad Ali.

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