Muhammad Ali Celebrated at Funeral, Public Memorial in Louisville

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2016

Muhammad Ali's funeral procession passes as onlookers line the street Friday, June 10, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

Louisville, Kentucky, welcomed the world on Friday to celebrate the life of its favorite son, legendary boxer and social activist Muhammad Ali, who died June 3 at the age of 74.

The day of remembrance began with a 19-mile funeral procession winding through the streets of his hometown while the massive crowd paid its final respects and chants of "Ali! Ali!" rung out, Jenna Fryer and Bruce Schreiner of the Associated Press reported.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer passed along word that city officials and the city's police department estimated more than 100,000 took to the streets, including Muhammad Ali Boulevard, for the event.

The procession created an array of memorable images as fans walked up to touch the hearse or shower it with flowers. ESPN provided some of the sights and sounds:

Kevin Kaduk of Yahoo Sports highlighted more of the reactions:

Another thing that became clear throughout the journey was the multitude of people from every walk of life who, in one way or another, were impacted by the former heavyweight champion of the world. Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated picked up on that point as well:

Following a private graveside service, the family members and close friends in attendance made their way to the KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville for the public memorial. The interfaith gathering featured a star-studded group of speakers and eulogists.

Michael Pearson of CNN relayed comments from Bob Gunnell, a family spokesperson, on Tuesday about The People's Champion putting the plans together long before his death.

"This began with The Champ a decade ago," Gunnell said. "As he convened the meeting, he said, 'This is what I would like to see, this is the type of program that I would like to see, that is inclusive of everyone, where we give as many people an opportunity that want to pay their respects to me.'"

Darren Rovell of ESPN.com spotlighted the event's program:

As the service got underway, the "Ali!" chants returned, as ABC News highlighted:

Dr. Kevin W. Cosby, the senior pastor of St. Stephen Church, wove an inspirational tale tying together Ali and the Kentucky Derby, two of Louisville's most well-known creations. He explained that you aren't allowed to bet on a horse that's already standing in the winner's circle. Instead, you must place your faith in one that's still in the Churchill Downs mud.

He proceeded to name off several individuals who stood with Ali while he was in the proverbial mud, such as Jim Brown and Howard Cosell.

Sky News Tonight provided more of Cosby's remarks, which focused on the lasting impact The Greatest had on the black community:

Michael Lerner, rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue, discussed Ali's efforts for solidarity and said the best way to honor him is by following in his footsteps, per Sky News:

As the parade of speakers from multiple faiths continued, the message of inclusion became even more powerful.

Maury Brown of Forbes was astounded by the diverse showing:

Attallah Shabazz, Malcolm X's daughter, furthered that sentiment by quoting Ali: "If you love God, you can't love only some of his children," she said, per The Undefeated.

President Barack Obama couldn't attend the memorial because of his daughter Malia's high school graduation, but senior adviser Valerie Jarrett read a statement, per CBS News Live:

Meanwhile, the longtime icon's wife, Lonnie Ali, wants the next generation to take the boxer's story to heart. "Muhammad wants young people of every background to see his life as proof that adversity can make you stronger," she said, per Ann Curry.

After emotional tributes from Natasha Mundkur, a former Muhammad Ali Center member and current University of Louisville student, and family friend John Ramsey, comedian Billy Crystal provided a look back at some of his humorous moments with Ali.

The Ring magazine captured one of those stories, which also involved Cosell:

As the final eulogist, former President Bill Clinton lauded Ali for making such a large impact on the world during the second half of his life. He explained that although Parkinson's disease may have started to take away some of his physical ability, he didn't let it stop him.

CNN tweeted a snippet of Clinton's eulogy:

Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in 1942, was not always universally loved. Robert Lipsyte laid out the immense, controversial trials and tribulations of the legend's rise to worldwide superstardom with a brilliant obituary in the New York Times.

Yet as the outstanding show of support throughout Friday's proceedings illustrated, the positive impact he made during his time on Earth was seemingly boundless.

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