I’ve covered Muhammad Ali for many years since I’m from his hometown of Louisville, KY. Even receiving an EMMY nomination. When i received that call five years ago preparing me for what was about to happen I will never forget. Then one day later, the champ passes away. Only a handful of people outside the family received that call. I will forever be grateful that the Ali family trusted me as a journalist, a person who really cared and someone that grew up in the same Black neighborhood he grew up in. Sherlene Shanklin
By Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11 ABC Louisville
Five years ago today, boxing legend and Louisville native Muhammad Ali passed. In today’s Your Story, we remember his legacy. I talk to Marilyn Williams. Ali’s caregiver and sister-in-law who shared some fond and funny moments about the champ.
Williams says “When he would have visitors over to the house he would play possium. He would sit with his eyes closed. He knew if they were leaving he would wake up so they could take pictures and autographs and they were excited. Muhammad knew…everybody knows he was Muhammad Ali is. He’s known around the world and he wanted to know who you are and I thought that was really neat about him.”
Williams got to witness so many things up close that some people had no idea. She remembers one doctor who liked to make house calls to see Muhammad because they both shared a common interest. She says “He would come every other Sunday. Muhammad and I were always watching westerns. And Muhammad always thought he was a Black cowboy. With Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson and Kris Krostophenson. Those were actually his friends.”
Williams also tells me that legendary musician Sam Cooke and Ali were best friends. I found tons of footage and photos of the two talking about things they were working on even a singing project.
When Marilyn was a teen Muhammad gave her some advice. That she still cherishes. “I got a problem. He said what’s your problem. So, I told him. He said that’s not a problem. And I said its not? To me it is..but he would tell me he said a problem is when you can’t solve it. When you can solve it, it’s not a problem.”
Another fond memory. Marilyn and Muhammad would take rides all over Louisville. She reflects on the reaction when people would recognize him. “We would get in the car we would go in the Westend to Shively the Eastend and we were all over riding and every now and then somebody would notice him and say Muhammad Ali, Muhammad Ali. He would wave and give them that bite like he was going to fight. He would blow them kisses.”
As the family continued to learn about his Parkinson’s diagnosis. They took it one day at a time. Williams says “The only thing I could tell Lonnie at that time was Lonnie were gonna push him as far as we can and eventually he’s going to come back. But if we get him so far he will live long and that exactly what happened”
Williams did get a chance to say goodbye to Ali and she shares a little of what she said to him. She tells me “The last word I said to Muhammad was that he was going to go to heaven. I whispered in his ear and I was going to meet him and they would do this again.”
And still today….
Williams says “His legacy lives on.”
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To see my story click the link-> https://www.whas11.com/article/news/local/5-years-after-muhammad-ali-death/417-7d8da576-5081-46bd-be9e-d50f737ac8c8