‘The Greatest’ comes home: Muhammad Ali’s body arrives in Louisville
‘The Greatest’ comes home: Muhammad Ali’s body arrives in Louisville
Muhammad Ali is seen raising his fists for the final time in these photographs from his final shoot taken by photographer Zenon Texeira
Muhammad Ali’s body has arrived in his hometown of Louisville – where he’ll be laid to rest as the city grieves the loss of its favorite son.
An airplane carrying the boxing great’s body arrived from Arizona, where he died, on Sunday afternoon ahead of a public funeral procession and service expected to draw huge crowds in honor of ‘The Greatest’ on Friday.
The private plane landed at Louisville International Airport around 4.30pm, WLKY reports. Family spokesman Bob Gunnell says Ali was accompanied by his wife, Lonnie, and other family members and friends. He says the body was taken to a local funeral home.
Police reportedly escorted the casket, which was wrapped in a black cloth bearing Arabic scripture in gold on it, from the airport to the funeral home.
The three-time heavyweight champion and outspoken civil rights activist died on Friday night at age 74 after health problems complicated by a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
‘Our hearts are literally hurting. But we are happy daddy is free now,’ one of Ali’s nine children, daughter Hana, wrote on Twitter.
The official cause of Ali’s death was septic shock due to unspecified natural causes.
Family spokesman Bob Gunnell said Ali had sought medical attention for a cough, but his condition rapidly deteriorated. He was admitted to a hospital in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, where he had lived for several years with his wife Lonnie.
Ali’s family ultimately removed him from life support on Friday, Gunnell said.
‘We all tried to stay strong and whispered in his ear, ‘You can go now. We will be okay,” Hana Ali wrote.
In Louisville, the late boxing legend’s life was celebrated at a memorial service at the church where their father was a longtime member on Sunday.
His younger brother Rahaman Ali took center stage at the two-hour service at King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church, sitting in a front-row pew with his wife, Caroline.
During the service, assistant pastor Charles Elliott III asked the congregation to stand to honor Muhammad Ali. In his tribute, Elliott said ‘there is no great man that has done more for this city than Muhammad Ali.’
Hundreds of fans flocked to Ali’s childhood home (above) on Sunday, which was recently renovated and turned into a museum
The church is not far from the little pink house in Louisville’s west end where the Ali brothers grew up. It also features a painting by Ali’s father, Cassius Clay Sr.
And it was one of several emotional remembrances Sunday as the city joined together to mourn its most celebrated son, called ‘the Louisville Lip’. Later on Sunday, interfaith services were planned at Louisville’s Islamic Center, which invited citizens to ‘join hands in unity to celebrate the life’ of Ali.
On Friday, politicians, celebrities and fans from around the globe are expected for a memorial service that Ali planned himself with the intent of making it open to all.
After a small family funeral on Thursday, Ali’s coffin will be transported Friday through the streets of Louisville, before a private burial at Cave Hill Cemetery and the public interfaith memorial service at the KFC Yum! Center.
The procession has been organized to ‘allow anyone that is there from the world to say goodbye,’ family spokesman Bob Gunnell told reporters.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the city is ready for a massive celebration to honor its most famous son.
Muslims say their afternoon prayers during an interfaith service at the Louisville Islamic Center in honor of the boxing great on Sunday
‘The Champ was a supernatural figure who crossed all kinds of boundaries, from athletics to arts, to humanitarian activities, from black to white, from Christians to Islam, and he belongs to the world,’ Fischer said. ‘There will be people coming from all over.’
The mayor said plans for Ali’s last farewell had been in the works for ‘quite some time,’ and that the city – host of horse racing’s elite Kentucky Derby, which draws crowds of nearly 200,000 – was set to ‘handle big crowds.’
But already, hundreds of people have flocked to Ali’s childhood home in the city – now a museum dedicated to his remarkable life – and paid tribute to the boxing great, leaving flowers, balloons and boxing gloves around the marker designating it a historical site.
The small pink home on Grand Avenue was recently renovated and turned into a museum.
Dorothy Poynter, who grew up with Ali in the neighborhood, said: ‘We were all so proud of him.’
Another memorial has grown outside the Muhammad Ali Center, a downtown museum that promotes his humanitarian ideals and showcases his remarkable career.
Andrew Hale took his three-year-old daughter, Chloe, there on Sunday to explain to her who Ali was.
Ali’s brother, Rahaman Ali, recalled what Ali was like as a boy named Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., long before he became the most famous man in the world, celebrated as much for his grace and his words as his lightning-fast feet and knockout punch
‘He was strong, courageous, and I hope I can be like that one day and just show love to my daughter like he showed his,’ he said. ‘She asked me where he is and I said he was in heaven.’
Mourners remembered his sporting prowess and his activism, but also spoke of Ali and his Muslim faith (he converted in the mid-1960s) and how his example can help dispel stereotypes about Islam.
Louisville residents say that at a time when Muslims in America are facing scorn and bigotry, Ali should be remembered as the true, peaceful face of Islam.
‘As a Muslim, I think it’s definitely important for us that we have such a person in the respected world that’s known to everybody, that gives us a good image,’ said Hamza Shah, a doctor in Louisville.
‘With the stuff going on these days, most of the time, you see in the media there’s a bad image of Muslims,’ Shah said.
‘The one person we can definitely get a good image of was Muhammad Ali, and he portrayed what the real Islam is.’
Since early 2015, attacks by Muslim extremists in Paris, San Bernardino, Brussels and elsewhere have fueled animosity among some Americans toward the Islamic world.
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, now the party’s presumptive nominee, has seemingly co-opted that hostility for political gain. On Sunday, he suggested a Muslim judge could be biased against him in US courts.
Trump also sparked outrage at home and abroad in December when he suggested a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the United States.
But Ali, in a sharp rebuke to the Trump proposal, said: ‘We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda.’
‘I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam, and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.’