The VIPP Report: Remembering Muhammad Ali, the GOAT five years later

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.”

If you have a story about Muhammad Ali you would like to share send it to sshanklin@whas11.com

►Contact Your Story’s Sherlene Shanklin at sshanklin@whas11.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram. 

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

The VIPP Report: DCorey Johnson’s rendition of the National Anthem is opening doors for the young star

The story and video that went viral of a nine-year old Louisville sensation with a special gift

By Sherlene M. Shanklin

Louisville, Kentucky

For the last few weeks, my story of DCorey (DC) Johnson has been truly an unbelievable journey.  I was tagged on Facebook by several friends and family members because I do a segment for WHAS11 Television, ABC Affiliate in Louisville called The411.  I highlight people and organizations who you normally don’t see on a newscast until I started doing it.  I currently, have a new segment called “Your Story”. I thought he could talk to me about all of the attention he has received.

I watched the video of DCorey multiple times around 11:00 pm one night.  Instead of going to bed I reached out to the Jefferson County Public Schools, (JCPS) public information office to see if I could get permission to go into Bates Elementary School to speak to the student and his parents. 

The first story on DCorey Johnson before the world met this young superstar with a big voice. Sherlene Shanklin’s story #SherlenesStory

I had to move quick because I knew this child had a gift and I wanted to be the first to speak to him.  I got the interview setup and was assigned a photojournalist to assist me with the story. 

Everyone that knows me, know that I’m not a morning person. So, I had a hard time going to sleep.  So, as I laid there watching the clock afraid that I would oversleep for the interview.  I starting thinking about different scenarios.  What if the third grader is actually shy and I can’t get him to talk.  So, I considered a few alternatives just in case. 

Well, I hate that I worried about it because there was no need to worry about this rising star what so ever.  DCorey was full of personality and at one point I just let the nine year old go.  He laughed, talked and one thing we all know children speak is the truth.  He had no problem explaining to me who did and did not help him on his musical journey. 

DCorey Johnson Photo by Sherlene Shanklin

DCorey gave me so much material to work with. I actually had enough for multiple stories.  I was wrapping up the interview, I promised to follow the third  grader on his journey. 

As I drove home from the interview, I envisioned how the story would look and sound.  Because of COVID-19 restrictions my photographer and I work from our homes but we had already discussed a game plan. 

Once I handed off the approved script, I voiced the package. I sent it Phillip for editing.  I felt great about the wording, my pacing and the interview itself. I knew Phillip would make it come to life.

Just a few hours later, we were ready for air.  When the story aired on WHAS11, ABC Louisville my phone starting ringing from text messages, social media messages and people wanting to congratulate me on the story.  I knew if I was getting that type of response I could only imagine what the Johnson family was getting. 

I have a company that host events and someone texted me asking, “Don’t you remember in your KY Derby event that DCorey played young Michael Jackson in the tribute?”  I remembered the amazing talent and I remember that a child received a standing ovation but I had not put two and two together. 

As soon as I got a link to my story, I started to circulate.  Within a couple of hours ABC contacted me and wanted to know who was this gifted child?  Because I worked for an ABC affiliate tv stations all over the country were running my story. I have gotten calls Tennessee to Washington. The network used my video and script and made stories that aired on almost every show from World News Tonight to GMA3.  I have received some of the craziest calls from professional sports venues to large scale prominent productions wanting me to help get in touch with the child’s parents. 

I’m in contact with his mother and we touch base every few days so I can give her the messages and she shares with me what is happening behind the scenes.  I hang up somedays saying “I’m witnessing the makings of a future star.”  I cant wait to share more on DCorey. 

I’ve provided a link of my story for you to review.  Kentucky student singing National Anthem on PA system goes viral | whas11.com

You will be amazed if you watch other stations around the world use my wording and approach to the story.  As a journalist and storyteller to see your work hit numerous media outlets and they keep its original form for three weeks is a testament to myself and Phillip’s work.  Its hard to change when it was done so beautifully the first time. 

Checkout some of my other stories.  I think you will like my style and approach to storytelling.  Articles by Sherlene M Shanklin | WHAS-TV (Louisville, KY) Journalist | Muck Rack

Contact Sherlene Shanklin at sherlene@sherleneshanklin.com or follow me on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.