The VIPP Report: Muhammad Ali’s caregiver opens up to Sherlene Shanklin for the first time since the GOAT’s passing

Special Report from Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11, Louisville

Orginially aired on January 14, 2021

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — On Sunday, Muhammad Ali would have been 79. 

On June 3rd, 2016 Ali passed away and thousands lined the streets of Louisville to thank the champ who was not only a boxing champion but an activist and philanthropist respected by many across the world.

For the first time, in an exclusive interview, WHAS11 talked to the person who was his childhood friend, caregiver and sister-in-law. You saw her in many photos over the years. 

Now, Whas11’s Sherlene Shanklin tells you her story of the Champ you didn’t know.

Marilyn Williams says “Muhammad’s mother Odessa Clay and my mother Marguerite Williams were best friends.”

Their families were very close. As a child, she looked up to him as a big brother having no idea that years later she would call him her brother-in-law.

‘Lonnie Ali is my big sister,” Williams said.

Prior to working with family, she was a successful entrepreneur owning her own salon and then worked at the Ford Plant right here in Louisville.

So, when Lonnie was looking for someone to help with their business affairs and later assist Ali and with his Parkinson’s diagnosis, Marilyn was the perfect choice to be his caregiver while some even thought she was their bodyguard.

“I was his security because if you got close to Muhammad you were in trouble if you weren’t supposed to be there,” said Williams.

She talked to me about being a caregiver for Ali. “I knew I had to do the best I could do. I had to be the best. I had to be on it. I knew this man. I knew him ever since I was a child so I had to be on it.”

People always asked, could he speak after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s? Williams said, “Muhammad could smile, stars eyes would just sparkle and he talked a lot with his eyes, he talked with his voice, his hands. He definitely got his message across.”

Anytime ‘the Champ’ could get home he did and Marilyn shared this fond memory.

“Muhammad loved Louisville. You say Louisville if I was working and I said I was going on vacation. Where are you going? I said I’m going to Louisville. I wanna go.”

I also asked Williams could she tell me something about Ali people didn’t know. She sighs before answering–“Muhammad and Lonnie will say this too. He had a kind and loving heart. He saw nothing wrong with no one. He would be with kings and queens, presidents and then turn around and be with the poorest person on this earth or the sickest person on this earth. It didn’t matter to him. He loved all.”

To see everything happening in Louisville sometimes even along the street that bears his name and across the country how does that make you feel?

“Well I can’t actually speak for Muhammad because he can speak for himself but a few things he taught me and that was respect for all mankind. One thing I asked him, I was always asking him questions when I was younger growing up and he told me that there’s good and bad in every race and every religion. There’s good and bad,” Williams said.

The final question of the interview I had to ask what she misses the most about the GOAT?

With tears in her eyes, she responded by saying “His eyes, his kindness, his spirit, his spirit was so beautiful. To be around him he gave you energy. Even if there was a gray day outside he made the sunshine.”

I had to use the video one more time of Louisville’s own, the man who had no problem telling you “I’m still the greatest!!!”

Link to the WHAS11 story https://www.whas11.com/article/news/local/muhammad-ali-caregiver-marilyn-williams-talks-greatest-of-all-time-goat-champ/417-b3ecdbeb-97b1-4062-9e01-ecf439074c89

Since the story aired on WHAS11, an ABC/Tegna affiliate here’s some of the other stations that picked up my story:

King5.com, 11Alive.com, WTHR.com, 12newsnow.com, ksdk.com, WUSA9.com, kentuckydailynews.com, firstcoastnews.com, kcentv.com, wkyc.com, wfmynews2.com, WLTX.com and MSN.com.

The VIPP Report: Remembering Muhammad Ali on what would have been his 79th birthday

For the FIRST time, his life-long caregiver sits down with me for more than a hour telling me things so many people have no idea about the ‘Greatest of All Time’. This is just a small portion of my interview that I wanted to share.

 

Special Report by Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11, ABC Louisville

Muhammad Ali and Sherlene Shanklin at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — On Sunday, Muhammad Ali would have been 79. 

On June 3rd, 2016 Ali passed away and thousands lined the streets of Louisville to thank the champ who was not only a boxing champion but an activist and philanthropist respected by many across the world.

For the first time, in an exclusive interview, WHAS11 talked to the person who was his childhood friend, caregiver and sister-in-law. You saw her in many photos over the years. 

Now, Whas11’s Sherlene Shanklin tells you her story of the Champ you didn’t know.

Marilyn Williams says “Muhammad’s mother Odessa Clay and my mother Marguerite Williams were best friends.”

Their families were very close. As a child, she looked up to him as a big brother having no idea that years later she would call him her brother-in-law.

‘Lonnie Ali is my big sister,” Williams said.

Prior to working with family, she was a successful entrepreneur owning her own salon and then worked at the Ford Plant right here in Louisville.

So, when Lonnie was looking for someone to help with their business affairs and later assist Ali and with his Parkinson’s diagnosis, Marilyn was the perfect choice to be his caregiver while some even thought she was their bodyguard.

“I was his security because if you got close to Muhammad you were in trouble if you weren’t supposed to be there,” said Williams.

She talked to me about being a caregiver for Ali. “I knew I had to do the best I could do. I had to be the best. I had to be on it. I knew this man. I knew him ever since I was a child so I had to be on it.”

People always asked, could he speak after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s? Williams said, “Muhammad could smile, stars eyes would just sparkle and he talked a lot with his eyes, he talked with his voice, his hands. He definitely got his message across.”

Anytime ‘the Champ’ could get home he did and Marilyn shared this fond memory.

“Muhammad loved Louisville. You say Louisville if I was working and I said I was going on vacation. Where are you going? I said I’m going to Louisville. I wanna go.”

Williams showing me a piece of art that Ali created.

I also asked Williams could she tell me something about Ali people didn’t know. She sighs before answering–“Muhammad and Lonnie will say this too. He had a kind and loving heart. He saw nothing wrong with no one. He would be with kings and queens, presidents and then turn around and be with the poorest person on this earth or the sickest person on this earth. It didn’t matter to him. He loved all.”

To see everything happening in Louisville sometimes even along the street that bears his name and across the country how does that make you feel?

“Well I can’t actually speak for Muhammad because he can speak for himself but a few things he taught me and that was respect for all mankind. One thing I asked him, I was always asking him questions when I was younger growing up and he told me that there’s good and bad in every race and every religion. There’s good and bad,” Williams said.

The final question of the interview I had to ask what she misses the most about the GOAT?

With tears in her eyes, she responded by saying “His eyes, his kindness, his spirit, his spirit was so beautiful. To be around him he gave you energy. Even if there was a gray day outside he made the sunshine.”

I had to use the video one more time of Louisville’s own, the man who had no problem telling you “I’m still the greatest!!!”

Here’s the link to the story. -> https://www.whas11.com/article/news/local/muhammad-alis-caregiver-marilyn-williams-talks-greatest-of-all-time-goat-champ/417-b3ecdbeb-97b1-4062-9e01-ecf439074c89

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

Sherlene Shanklin is an EMMY Award winning journalist. Two-time Society of Professional Journalists, (SPJ) winner for sports writing and best use of social media. Multiple award winner for the Associated Press. Career spans nearly 30 years with an emphasis but not limited to news in Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

The VIPP Report: Remembering Muhammad Ali

MUHAMMAD ALI’S FUNERAL PROCESSIONAL

13423826_10153612593516932_3712697371369420611_n

COMES BY THE KENTUCKY CENTER FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE

(Louisville, KY) On June 3rd, Louisville native Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74 years of age in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Greatest of All Time, (GOAT) had a champion’s sendoff in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.  On Friday, June 10th, streets throughout the city were blocked off so his 17-car processional could take his final journey to his resting place at Cave Hill Cemetery.

The processional led by family owned A.D. Porter and Sons Funeral Home owned by African-Americans has served the community for more than 100 years.  They traveled down Old Walnut Street, known today as Muhammad Ali Blvd one last time.  Stopping by landmarks and things important to Ali and his family.

When they passed 17th and Muhammad Ali they approached the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage where Aukram Burton, Executive Director for KCAAH captured these breath-taking and historical photos as hundreds stood at that route to say goodbye to Ali.

We invite you to use the photo with the courtesy of Aukram Burton, KCAAH.  If you use the photos, please let us know so we can share with others.

For additional information about the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage by calling 502-583-4100.

To do a story and/or obtain quotes from member of the KCAAH executive staff, please contact Sherlene Shanklin, VIPP Communications at info@vippcommuncations.com.

TheVIPPReport@vippcommunications.com Follow us on Twitter @thevippreport @vippcomm.

About KCAAH

The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage is the result of a collection of African American educators, artists and historians who have collaborated to give the long dormant history of African Americans in the region the voice and platform it deserves. This group evolved from the Louisville and Jefferson County African American Heritage Committee into its current mold, with a single unifying goal of promoting the Kentuckiana region’s black heritage.

13428624_10153612593556932_6180154340394035413_n

 

 

 

The VIPP Report: Remembering Louisville’s own Muhammad Ali

ALI(johnlairpic)300-dpi

Courtesy: Muhammad Ali Center

Special Report by Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11 Television, ABC Louisville

On Friday, June3,  the “Greatest Of All Time” has passed away.  Muhammad Ali died surrounded by family and loved ones in Arizona.  The Louisville, Ky. native born Cassius Marcellus Clay to Cassius Sr. and Odessa Clay on January 17, 1942.  Ali was the father of nine children, seven daughters and two sons.

To date Ali remains the only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion.  He won the title in 1964, 1974, and 1978.

Growing up as a young girl in the same city, I would see Ali on various occasions but when I close my eyes I can vividly see him running down Broadway with his brother by his side.  Muhammad and Rahman would run and shadowbox. He would be showing off and many times slowing and/or stopping traffic.  As a young girl, I used to say “What in the world is he doing?”  Not knowing he was preparing himself to be one of the most influential people in the world.  I was familiar with boxing because it was extremely popular then. I even had Greg Page and one of his trainers Leroy Edmerson as members of my church.

In hindsight, we take those moments for granted.

Another special moment is when I ran into Ali on Fourth Street in 1986. He was sitting in the back of a box truck signing autographs in front of the Galleria which is known today as Fourth Street Live.  He gave me and my mom an “Introduction to Islam” book.  I remembered he laughed about our names because they were so similar (Shirley and Sherlene).  He turned to me and said ‘how you spell that’ in his larger than life voice.

I’ve been following the household name pretty much all of my adult life.  It was only an added bonus when I had the ability to cover events and stories involving the man who had no problem telling you “I’m so pretty,” “I’m the greatest,” and “The champ is here.”  He gave hope to those that saw no hope and a voice to many who couldn’t speak for themselves.

To Louisville who has a street named in his honor, he was hometown, but to the world he was the man who floated like a butterfly and could sting like a bee. He was “The Greatest”.

Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74 leaving his wife Lonnie Ali of almost 30 years and nine children and grandchildren.

If you have a story and/or photo you would like to share send it to me atsshanklin@whas11.com.  You can follow me on Twitter @Sherlenemediapr and Instagram @Sherlenemediapro for additional information and stories I gather in the coming days.

The VIPP Report is a blog created by Shanklin.  If you have a story idea send it to TheVIPPReport@vippcommunications.com.  You can follow us on Twitter @thevippreport @vippcomm @Sherlenemediapr.  

SherleneShanklnMuhammadAli

Muhammad Ali and Sherlene Shanklin at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY.

Here’s the official link to the story.

http://www.whas11.com/mb/news/local/remembering-the-greatest-muhammad-ali/230363644

 

The VIPP Report: Muhammad Ali’s childhood home ready for tours

Special from Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11 Television, ABC, Louisville, KY

Ali's childhoodhome

Work is almost complete on the childhood home of Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali.  The Louisville native’s home located at 33rd and Grand Avenue has been restored to when the “Greatest” and his family lived in the West Louisville home.

The restoration is now complete and the only thing to do is move in the furniture says Rev. Charles Elliott, founder of Jesus and a Job.  They help restore the Clay home.  This will be all completed in time for the public dedication on Sunday, May 1st, which is just days prior to the Kentucky Derby.  Fans visiting Louisville will have another place to visit while in town.

I’m awaiting official notification on the cost of the tour but as soon as I get it I will file another report.

If you have a story idea, send it to me at the411@whas11.com .  you can also follow me on Twitter for the latest in community and entertainment news at @Sherlenemediapr.

If you have a story idea send it to thevipppreport@vippcommunications.com.  Follow us on Twitter @vippcomm.

vipp_report_banner

The VIPP Report: Sherlene Shanklin gets answers on the health of boxing legend Muhammad Ali

Courtesy: Muhammad Ali Center

Courtesy: Muhammad Ali Center

Special report by Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11 Television/ABC Louisville

We’re getting word  that former boxing heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali is doing just fine tonight. Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell tells me, reports that Ali’s health is deteriorating are not true.

Gunnell says the champ spent last night taking in an NBA game in Phoenix, cheering on NBA players with roots in Kentucky.

Gunnell  says Ali is doing well.

If you have a story idea, send it to me at The411@whas11.com.  You can follow me on Twitter @Sherlenemediapr and Instagram Sherlenemediapro.

http://www.whas11.com/story/homepage/2015/11/05/the411-with-sherlene-shanklin-reports-of-louisville-native-muhammad-alis-declining-health-are-not-true/75252050/