Photographs and words by Heather LeRoy
As the Champ made his final 19-mile journey through the streets of Louisville, I spent the entire morning wandering his neighborhood, making friends with those who knew him and those who spent their whole lives living on his street.
Standing on the corner of Louis Coleman Jr. and Kentucky Street, a few blocks from Ali’s pink childhood home, a group of K–6 children held up Xerox photos of the Champ and his inspirational quotes. To the right of me, a father and his daughter held up signs that read, “WITH THE GREATEST RESPECT –YOU SHOOK UP THE WORLD IN LIFE AND IN DEATH – RIP CHAMP.”
As the procession neared, helicopters swarmed above, and an old man on a bicycle rode past me shouting, “THE CHAMP IS COMING, I SAW THE HEARSE! THE CHAMP IS FINALLY COMING HOME!” I took off sprinting down the street to get a better view. A man jumped out in front of me in a fighter’s stance: “TAKE MY PICTURE!”We all stood next to each other taking in this monumental moment of peace. A moment where we are all connected by a spirit greater than our color or religion, united by the love of someone who fought for those who didn’t have a voice.
When asked how he would like to be remembered, Ali said:
“I would like for them to say he took a few cups of love, he took one tablespoon of patience, one teaspoon of generosity, one pint of kindness, he took one quart of laughter, one pinch of concern, and then he mixed willingness with happiness, he added lots of faith, and he stirred it up well, then he spread it over a span of a lifetime, and he served it to each and every deserving person he met.”
—Muhammad Ali, Interview with David Frost (1972)