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Cassius Clay Goes Home to Louisville

Mar. 8, 1964 - A subdued Cassius Clay returned home to Louisville yesterday, and a crowd of 400 greeted him at Standiford Field.

Conservatively clad in black suit and black shoes, he walked first to where his mother (pictured) and father stood. His father attempted to put a golden papier-mache crown on his head, a scarlet velvet cape over his shoulders, and a scepter in his hand, but Cassius shrugged off these theatrical trappings.

“I don’t want any of that stuff,” said the 22-year-old fighter.

His father pushed the crown at him again. Clay put it on his head briefly to oblige photographers and then took it off. “I don’t want any of that stuff,” he repeated. “I’m heavyweight champion of the world. I’ve quit campaigning.”

Before his plane arrived, a reporter had shown Cassius Clay Sr. a news report that Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Black Muslims, had given Cassius Clay Jr. the name of Muhammad Ali. “The Clay name has no divine meaning,” said Mr. Muhammad.

“The Clays were fighters,” said Clay Sr. grimly. “Cassius came this far under the name of Clay, Christianity, and the sponsoring group. I don’t know why he wants to change now.”

Later, at the Clay family home, the champion gave a 20-minute interview to a reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal. That conversation covered this ground:

Army — “I really tried hard — real hard — on that mental test. It wasn’t too hard, I guess, but I never was a good reader or a good speller, not brainy with a pencil and paper. I got out of Central High with a D-minus, you know.” (There have been reports that Clay may have flunked his Selective Service mental test.)

Muslims — “I don’t hate anybody, and I know the Muslims don’t teach hate. If they did, I wouldn’t be with them. If a lion runs into a room, you run out. It isn’t that you hate the lion, it’s that you don’t want to get bit. I don’t want to go where I’m not wanted. After I won the championship, I drove from Miami to New York — over Highway 301 — for 1½ days without stopping to eat. I got some bologna and cheese and soft drinks. But I’m not complaining.”

His Name — I plan to fight under the name of Cassius Clay unless I’m ordered not to [by the Nation of Islam]. The name I’ve been given is Muhammad Ali. Muhammad means ‘worthy of all praise,’ and Ali means ‘most high.’ I couldn’t get into the holy city of Mecca without a Muslim name. I plan to travel in the East, different parts of the world where I’ve been invited.”


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