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Move Over Jefferson Davis: “The Greatest” Belongs in Kentucky’s Capitol Rotunda


JYBIII with Ali

The “Greatest of All Time” taking a jab from future KY Secretary of State John Y. Brown, III

While Kentucky is renowned for her natural beauty, it’s an indoor setting that may be our most awe-inspiring.

After a recent centennial restoration, the State Capitol Rotunda is a glorious sensory feast. Lift your head to behold the ornate gold dome; lower your gaze to savor elegant historical murals; crane your neck to feel the fellowship of sculptured bronze forms of our most celebrated natives:  A huge statue of Abraham Lincoln holds court in the center, surrounded in a circle by The Great Compromiser Henry Clay, former U.S. Vice President Alben Barkley, pioneering surgeon Ephraim McDowell, and…then…


Jefferson Davis.

(If you’re one of the proud few who still bemoans the “War Against Northern Aggression,” or applauds Kentucky’s decision to effectively bind itself to the Confederate cause after the Civil War ended, you might not want to read further.)

Jefferson Davis, the Todd County native who served as President of the Confederate States of America, was an American traitor who deserves vilification, not canonization in marble.  As historian and author Steve Hahn recently summarized, “Davis was a staunch defender of slavery and the imperial ambitions of slaveholders, a believer in state sovereignty even while benefiting from federal largess, and a bitter foe of Lincoln and all he was presumed to represent. To make matters worse, Davis had few charms or virtues. He was a lovely amalgam of haughty, prickly, humorless, argumentative, cold and thin-skinned.”

Oh…and it gets even worse.

Beyond who he was as a person, Jefferson Davis is the very symbol of the most shameful, most disgraceful era in American history.  Every day, Americans of all political stripes are working to transcend the scars left by slavery and its aftermath. And every day, walking through our Commonwealth’s cathedral, our most important citizens — from the officials who lead the state, to the schoolchildren who visit our capital — pass by the white statue that daily pours salt into our nation’s deepest wound.

Jefferson Davis, it’s time for you to go.

And there’s no more fitting Rotunda replacement for the worst of the 19th century than the Greatest of All Time.

Cassius Clay, Jr. — prophetically named after Henry Clay’s abolitionist cousin — didn’t simply make a brief childhood appearance in Kentucky like Honest Abe: the future self-remonikered Muhammad Ali was a proud product of Louisville, raised by a supportive middle class family and nurtured by a devoted neighborhood community.  It’s no wonder that the Louisville Lip ultimately chose to locate his award-winning museum and civil rights center in his hometown.

In a state which loathes elites and loves to poke the eye of the establishment, it seems a bit absurd that our own version of statuary hall is filled with a bunch of politicos and just private citizen.  We deserve a sports hero in permanent Frankfort; indeed, sport often defines our Commonwealth.  As I’ve argued several times within these virtual pagesathletics are the force that joins our diverse and deeply divided populace into one voice; we become a coherent and inter-dependent community on game day.

And there is simply no Kentucky sports figure that even approaches the luminosity or the dazzling and abiding importance of The Champ.

While Michael Jordan made a brief run of it in the Nineties, the late 20th Century sports scene was owned by Muhammad Ali.  From his gold-bejeweled coming-out party in the 1960 Rome Olympics, to his shocking upset of heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in 1964, to the “Fight of the Century” against Joe Frazier in 1971, to the “Rumble in the Jungle” versus George Foreman in 1974, to the “Thrilla in Manilla” Frazier rematch in 1975 — every Ali bout seemed larger-than-life, even historic, when compared with other contemporary sports action.  When he reigned, boxing was the sport of kings; since The People’s Champion retired, the sport has lost most of its relevance.

Ali’s verbal jabs at opponents and the press (especially his blustery, verbal sparring partner, Howard Cosell) captured the public imagination — Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations are filled with memorable Ali-isms: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”; “Rope-a-dope”; “I’m so mean, I make medicine sick”; “I am the greatest…OF ALL TIME.”

For decades, The Champ was the most famous man in the world, an iconic icon; and decades into retirement, he remains one of the globe’s most beloved figures.

And none of that is why Ali belongs in the State Capitol Rotunda.

Muhammad Ali’s true contribution to greatness was the invaluable role he played in redressing the ills brought to our country by Jefferson Davis and his ilk.  Ali’s rise coincided with this country’s most moral moment — the Civil Rights Movement — and unlike other sports greats who shirked from politics (à la MJ who famously noted that “Republicans buy sneakers, too); Ali, true to form, couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

Now, it’s important to remember that Muhammad Ali was no mainstream moderating figure.  Early on, he took issue with less confrontational leaders, joined the über-controversial Nation of Islam, emerged as a vocal proponent of the nascent “Black Power” movement, and called for radical change to the institutional racism of white-dominated society.  Most contentiously, he drew upon his new faith, as well as his deep antagonism to Jim Crow America, to claim status as a conscientious objector and refuse to be drafted for the Vietnam War. “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong – no Viet Cong ever called me N___,” he famously intoned. “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

Many Americans of an older generation will never forgive him.  But whether or not you agreed with his principled stance, Muhammad Ali’s long-term positive political and societal impact is undeniable.  The Supreme Court decision that his draft-avoiding prompted served as a landmark sanctification of our nation’s freedoms of speech and religion.  And by standing up loudly and courageously to the segregation-infected political infrastructure, Ali’s inspiration of young African-Americans, struggling to find a voice in their communities, was incomparable. As civil rights activist Julian Bond noted, “It’s hard to imagine that a sports figure could have so much political influence on so many people.”

Muhammad Ali was one of the most influential Americans of the 20th Century, and his enduring work continues today at the center that bears his name in his hometown of Louisville.  Long after he is gone, his legacy will continue with the millions, if not billions, of people who have been inspired by the personal risks he took to champion justice and freedom.

While he is still with us, let’s pay Muhammad Ali one small honor — and take a large step toward repairing our state’s cultural fabric — by adding his statue to Kentucky’s Capitol Rotunda.


Agree with me?  Please sign this petition, and I promise to deliver it to Governor Steve Beshear, House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President Robert Stivers.

Disagree with me? Let me have it in the comments below.



UPDATE (Monday, December 1 at 12:01 PM)

I just heard from the Ali family: It is the Champ’s belief that Islam prohibits three-dimensional representations of living Muslims.  Accordingly, I have adjusted the petition to call for a two-dimensional representation of Ali (a portrait, picture or mural) in lieu of a statue.

Article written by Jonathan Miller

Jonathan Miller, The Recovering Politician (Twitter: @RecoveringPol), writes about the politics of sport and the sport of politics...and sometimes about bourbon. Jonathan has been elected twice as Kentucky's State Treasurer; practices as a crisis management attorney; authored three books on faith, public policy and crisis management; serves as a Contributor to The Daily Beast, played straight man on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; reached the final table of the World Series of Poker; and with his summer camp sweetheart, raised two remarkable twenty-something daughters.

60 Comments for Move Over Jefferson Davis: “The Greatest” Belongs in Kentucky’s Capitol Rotunda

  1. Willy
    8:28 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    Totally agree & just wanted to say thanks, have always felt Ali deserves more respect from his home state than he has ever received.

  2. Red headed Stepchild
    8:30 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    Shame on you. Replace one racist with another?

    When you deliver your petition to the governor find out why he and his goons blocked an ambulance after the UK vs UL game preventing the EMTs from rendering aide to someone. It was more important for him to exit the stadium than yeid to an ambulance that his motorcade had blocked.

    I know Besher knew they had the ambulance blocked because he shrugged his shoulders when I pointed it out to him. What a piece of sh! T.

    • Jonathan Miller
      8:51 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      Glad we agree that Davis was a racist. The Steve Beshear you describe is not the one I know. I’m confident if he knew he was blockING an ambulance he would have moved.

    • Red headed Stepchild
      9:07 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      Are you saying I’m telling a lie?

      Trust me it happened. Ask the Metro cop that ran into the back of the black SUV or someone had witnessed it can back up my story. Or ask the black security detail officer. He was an observer as well.

      The governor was taking selfies with people.

    • Jonathan Miller
      9:21 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      No I believe you as much as I can believe anyone who comments with a nickname. But I am confident that if Beshear knew he was blocking an ambulance, he would have done something about it. Whatever you think of his politics, he is a good man.

  3. wu slang
    8:39 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    I think it’s a pretty powerful image to see Davis peering over Lincoln’s shoulder in the rotunda. Your quote about Davis being an “American traitor deserving of vilification” is asinine revisionist history sense Davis was never tried for treason. If you want to put Ali in fine, but denying our history is childish. Also, it’s “rumble in the jungle” not “rumble in the jumble.”

    • Jonathan Miller
      8:54 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      Thanks for catching the typo – will fix.

      I’m not a student of the Reconstruction period so I’m not sure how they were treating CSA leaders. Although as part of healing the nation, it would have been wise not to try them all for treason, a la Mandela and reconciliation in South Africa.

      But anyone who leads a movement to tear apart his country and launch it into civil war all for the purpose of maintaining the practice of enslaving an entire race of Americans fits the definition of traitor to me.

    • AmandaLou
      9:21 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      Just a little info…Davis was captured and imprisoned for two years fleeing Richmond. He was indicted on treason, but never tried. I believe the Amnesty Act is what saved most leaders from treason charges as you said in an effort to heal the nation.

  4. Tej
    8:48 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    Stick to writing about UK Athletics.

  5. Smyrna_Cat
    9:03 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    Mr. Miller. I have enjoyed your blurbs on this site. I don’t particularly agree with you on this one, but so be it.

    I am curious, though, why you feel the need to respond to every comment?? Are you seeking attention? Just trying to argue? Trying to let others know that you are “smarter” as you strive to have the last word?

    My suggestion … write your articles and share your thoughts. At that point be respectful enough of the opinions of others to just leave things alone.

    So please, don’t add your comments …

    • Jonathan Miller
      9:19 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      I guess it is sort of ironic to respond to your comment suggesting that I shouldn’t respond to comments. But I think that this is one of the wonderful things about KSR, the opportunity to have an almost real-time debate with my readers. If you check out some of the past threads, I sometimes even admit being wrong about a phrase or statement.

      I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t seeking attention – every writer does, at least the ones that share their thoughts publicly. But I don’t feel like I have to have the last word.

      I will prove it -reply back to this and I won’t reply. Unless you attack my mom.

  6. keefsopeng
    9:29 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    how old are you?

    • Jonathan Miller
      9:34 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      I’m 47. Have great early childhood memories of the champ fighting Frazier and Foreman.

    • keefsopeng
      9:56 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      ok, just wanted to make sure you weren’t a college kid before I said this. I love the champ and Ali is/was the champ, but do you really believe he was anything more than a showman who made decisions to try and endear himself with people and the counter culture of the time? Like I said I love Muhammad Ali the prize fighter, just like you said “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, rumble young man rumble” “I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale, handcuffed lighting and put thunder in jail” my favorite documentary or at least one of my top few is When We Were Kings, I get chills when they chant Ali bomaye. I just think he like a lot of celebrities slid by in the public eye as martyrs when they were nothing more charlatans. In terms of Jefferson Davis yea get rid of him but certainly there must be someone more worthy to enshrine than the Louisville Lip

  7. Gharris
    9:31 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    Jefferson should go, but I’m not a huge fan of replacing him with a draft dodger and a racist. Surely their are other men deserving of a statue than him? Our culture has a very bad habit of justifying action, no matter how reprehensible, if we believe the end to be “right”. Whether or not he was fighting for equality does not nullify the fact that he was part of two seperate violent and rascist groups, and that he refused to answer the call of duty. The latter may be excusable in hindsight if you take into account more recent legislature, however the former can not, and should not, ever be washed away.

    Other than that, wonderfully written as always.

    • Jonathan Miller
      9:39 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      A lot of what Ali said vis a vis whites when he was in his early 20s was very controversial, some of it very unproductive and unhelpful to racial healing. But like all of us, he grew up, and became much more of a spokesman for compassion and justice, I like to give everyone second chances. But even at his worst, he was reflecting a genuine anger among American blacks that was important to be articulated. and by doing that he empowered millions.

  8. erinlynne
    9:32 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    While I absolutely agree Ali should be added, I think Jefferson Davis should stay. While I disagree with his stance on most things, he was an integral part of not only Kentucky history, but American history.

    • Jonathan Miller
      9:41 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      There’s no doubt that Davis was an integral part of a Kentucky’s history and America’s history. And we shouldnt try to pretend that it didn’t happen. There are plenty of places to discuss and debate Davis’ legacy, But I believe the rotunda should be reserve for the greatest Kentuckians, the ones who helped us advance as a commonwealth and a country, And davis falls far short,

    • El_Joe
      9:48 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      ^ This. Got no problem with Ali. I think of him as an American icon, and while his ties to Kentucky are somewhat shaky, they are much less so than Lincoln’s.

      There is a difference between glorifying racism and not writing revisionist history of what American was. Davis was wrong. This doesn’t change his courage in his convictions, misguided as they were… or the fact that the Civil War was about so much more than the morality of slavery. The whole issue of state sovereignty was enormous. Southerners, then and now, don’t exactly cotton to the federal government refusing to back state laws. If slavery was such an obvious target, why did George Washington and Thomas Jefferson stand by and watch, instead of eliminating it when they could?

      You talk about Davis as if he was David Koresh or some sort of fringe nutjob. The nation at the time was divided– and the idea that the south should be forgotten and wiped out of the history books because they lost is asinine.

      I’ve got no bones at all with Ali. But instead of trying to rewrite the past, maybe we should be studying it and seeing what we can learn. I’m from Kentucky– the land of Muhammad Ali and Jefferson Davis, the land of Adolph Rupp and Tubby Smith. We are what we are.

    • JVice
      10:16 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      Learning from the past isn’t the same as being required to celebrate it.

    • Secretariat
      12:05 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

      Just because he’s an important part of our past doesn’t mean he should be celebrated, and just because he was mainstream and not part of a fringe group doesn’t mean he wasn’t a nutjob…and evil. Hitler was a pretty important part of German and world history, enjoyed majority support from the citizenry, and based his policies on racial discrimination. Germany isn’t exactly filled with statues of the man. Davis belongs in the same breath as Hitler, not in the rotunda.

  9. Ridge Runner
    9:38 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    Hi Jonathan,

    Great topic to stir things up. I too don’t agree with taking Davis out. he and that period was a part of our history and what state can feature the birthplace of 2 presidents in the same period although dark it was.

    African slavery is so much the outstanding feature of the South, in the unthinking view of it, that people often forget there had been slaves in all the old colonies. Slaves were auctioned openly in the Market House of Philadelphia; in the shadow of Congregational churches in Rhode Island; in Boston taverns and warehouses; and weekly, sometimes daily, in Merchant’s Coffee House of New York. Such Northern heroes of the American Revolution as John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin bought, sold, and owned black people. William Henry Seward, Lincoln’s anti-slavery Secretary of State during the Civil War, born in 1801, grew up in Orange County, New York, in a slave-owning family and amid neighbors who owned slaves if they could afford them. The family of Abraham Lincoln himself, when it lived in Pennsylvania in colonial times, owned slaves.”

    “Yet comparatively little is written about the 200-year history of Northern slavery.”

    “The North failed to develop large-scale agrarian slavery, such as later arose in the Deep South, but that had little to do with morality and much to do with climate and economy.”

    If the North could have grown the big money ‘cash’ crops like cotton, tobacco, indigo, rice, and sugar, like the South did, they would have also have kept large scale slavery, just like the South did.

    So, I just want to take away any of the postential misperception of the “North was holier (is that a word?) than the south” routine.

    Again, good debate.

    • Ridge Runner
      9:40 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      apologies for mis-spelled words and those used not in the correct format -above.

    • Jonathan Miller
      9:44 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      Great points about the north. Cities in the north were some of the sites of the lest segregation and racism in the 20th century as well.

  10. eyebleedblue
    9:40 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    Married 4 times. 9 children. Draft dodger, although he shouldn’t have been drafted. Let’s not paint the guy as a Saint because he has a horrible disease. Although, I don’t think Jefferson Davis should be celebrated at our Government buildings, I don’t think Ali should either. Then again, the University led white guilt agenda isn’t my cup of tea because I feel no guilt over something so trivial as skin color.

    • Jonathan Miller
      9:43 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      Glad we agree on Davis. And Ali is far far far from a saint. As am I. Or Lincoln and clay for that matter. But that doesn’t prevent his greatness and his importance to a critical period in Kentucky history.

    • catdaddyd
      11:44 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      Draft dodger, Muslim, and most of all, most of his fights in the 70s were fixed. I remember Jimmy Young beat the hell out of him, and lost on decision. It’s on YouTube. So no to Ali, lets put one up of Jimmy Young, plus he’s already dead.

  11. Smyrna_Cat
    9:56 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    Mr. Miller. Your need to have the last word is a bit troubling. From what I can tell, there is no way to respond to your posts. Is there? Am I just missing something?

    I always thought a good writer/reporter wrote their article and then allowed others to debate the merits of said article. Is this supposed to be a new type of “ongoing article because the author will continue commenting until the earth stops spinning” approach?

  12. BigMike
    10:03 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    Recognizing Ali is a slap in the face to every veteran that answered our country’s call to serve. If we had more citizens like him I would be typing this in a different language. Great boxer – not a great American.

  13. JTsaysHey
    10:16 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    As a black man and a veteran of this country I am appalled that this draft dodger is going to be put in. I am not a fan of Davis but times were different.

  14. Hermes
    11:01 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    Slavery was immoral and damaged this country in ways that never can be remedied. There is no doubt America would be a better place if slavery never had happened. Generations upon generations have paid for the mistake and will continue to do so. The American Civil War is but one of the many ways we have paid the price. The Union victory set in motion a destruction of states’ rights and ushered in federal dominance that today threatens all individual liberty and freedom. Jefferson Davis was and is a part of Kentucky history and I will leave it to others to judge him or not. Ali was a great boxer and entertainer but otherwise, he was not historically significant. What I find troubling is that this sports web site has devolved into a forum for leftist drivel. Clearly, this post was meant to stir the racial pot, as there is no logical nexus between the statue of Jefferson Davis and Ali. This stuff has no place on a website that is supposed to be about KY sports. I don’t blame you, Mr. Miller, as you are simply sharing your leftist perspective. I blame Matt Jones and I submit he is risking a loss of followers for no good reason.

    • ukfaningatorland
      11:22 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      Clearly, this post was meant to stir the racial pot, as there is no logical nexus between the statue of Jefferson Davis and Ali. This stuff has no place on a website that is supposed to be about KY sports. I don’t blame you, Mr. Miller, as you are simply sharing your leftist perspective. I blame Matt Jones and I submit he is risking a loss of followers for no good reason.


      Excellent, I concur

    • Leroy Birdman
      11:37 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      How is being against Jefferson Davis a “leftist perspective”? How is he “stirring the racial pot”? What is a “racial pot”? Please tell me that you right-wingers have a little more self-respect than this. Someone says they don’t think Jefferson Davis should be honored and it’s a far-left political move. By every–seriously every single one–account, Ali is a more honorable man than Jefferson Davis. Let’s honor him.

      Osama Bin Laden is a part of American history. He’s a very dark part, but a part. We shouldn’t pretend he never existed, but should we honor him? How is honoring Jefferson Davis any different?

    • catdaddyd
      11:54 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      What about the Native Americans, everyone seems to overlook them. Damn white people. What about the Chinese that was brought over here to build the railroad. Damn white people, leave it them to create one of the best countries ever in a relatively short period of time.

  15. catdog
    11:18 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    Most of the founding fathers owned slaves.
    Should they all be removed henceforth from any reference in our nation’s history ?
    There are many courthouse monuments to the confederate solider in western Kentucky.
    Should they be taken down, Mr. Miller?
    Oh, I thought this was a UK sports blog site not MSNBC.
    Sorry, my bad.

    • Jonathan Miller
      9:22 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

      Nope. I don’t call for removing everything everywhere. And it would be impossible to blame all slave holders for a practice that was unfortunately omnipresent. But the Capitol a Rotunda is an exclusive club and should not be contaminated with the symbol of hanging on to the horrible practice.

  16. ukfaningatorland
    11:23 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    Can we get a thumbs down button vs just a like?

  17. Leroy Birdman
    11:27 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    Thank you Mr. Miller. Honoring Jefferson Davis is like honoring Osama Bin Laden. Both men hated America, and dedicated their lives to tearing it apart. The big difference is that Jefferson Davis was far more successful. I don’t believe that we should whitewash our history and pretend that he never existed, but if we agree that the Capitol Rotunda is a place of honor, then a racist and a traitor and a defender of the worst part of American history like Jefferson Davis should not be honored.

    Who should replace him? I don’t think there’s a better answer than Mr. Ali. Even now, people are calling him racist because he refused to fight in an immoral war. But he is a brilliant athlete, an advocate for civil rights, and someone every Kentuckian should be proud of. This commonwealth needs to start honoring its geniuses and not it’s traitors. Go further. I wouldn’t mind seeing a statue honoring Bill Monroe and Robert Penn Warren and Hunter S Thompson and Loretta Lynn. But first and always: it has to be Ali. More importantly, let’s stop pretending someone who hated America is an American hero.

    Ali Bom-Ba-Ye

    • catdaddyd
      11:57 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

      How bout we pay off the nation debt before we go around building statues of everybody. More government waste.

    • Bulldawg
      12:30 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

      I totally was not going to post a comment until I saw the irony in yours. You called Davis “a racist, a traitor, and a defender of the worst part of American history…” (can’t really argue with any of that). BUT, you do realize all 3 things can also be said about Ali. His involvement with certain racial groups could be seen as racism. He blatantly dodged the draft. That can be seen a traitor’s action. Lastly, he is a muslim. I would say 9/11 was a pretty bad part of American history and Bin Laden whom you compared Davis to actually has way more in common with his muslim brother Ali. This is a simple case of not seeing the other side of the argument, or “the pot calling the kettle black.”

    • David
      7:07 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

      @catdaddyd, a mural is a painting. It is not a sculpture.

  18. Customer
    11:36 pm November 30, 2014 Permalink

    What selection criteria did you use to come up with Ali?

    If you’re looking for someone famous who actually served his country, how about Kit Carson?

    If you’re looking for celebrities of film, how about Tom Cruise, George Clooney, D.W. Griffith, Ashley Judd, Johnny Depp or Patricia Neal?

    If you’re looking for anti-slavery, how about Cassius Clay?

    If you’re looking for a racist, you can do better than Ali.

    If you’re looking for civic achievement, how about Louis Brandeis?

    If you’re looking for leaders of a “movement,” how about Carrie Nation? I can’t credit Ali’s draft avoidance as much more than his desire to avoid an interruption in his career and enjoy his money, while some other poor schmuck had to take his place in the draft line.

    If you’re looking for some controversy and infamy, how about Charles Manson?

    If you’re looking for an internationally famous sports figure, how about Secretariat?

    If you’re looking for someone of character, there are too many to name.

    If you’re looking for a famous black person, well…, you found one, but too many other, better choices are available.

    If you’re looking for a boxer with a lot of negative baggage, then you hit the nail on the head, but on any other criteria, you whiffed.

    • Secretariat
      12:08 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

      Um, Cassius Clay IS Muhammed Ali.

    • Customer
      12:25 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

      Sorry, I was referring to the Cassius Clay who died in 1903, the famous abolitionist.

  19. catdaddyd
    12:03 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

    Isn’t the (money losing) Ali Center in Louisville enough.

  20. bballdoc
    4:21 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

    Mr Miller,
    I think you would certainly find more admiration for Ali, who really is The Greatest, for the way he used his achievement in his sport to advance the civil rights movement, if your piece did not link him to removing Jefferson Davis from the capitol. Most people have a somewhat superficial and even naively romantic understanding of the Civil War and its multiple causes. Teaching of history is not a strong suit in our schools. But I do think the validity and the necessity for the civil rights movement is widely accepted. This website draws more sports fans than political activists, not that either are morally superior. Ali gets my vote, and it wouldn’t bother me if his bust stared at JD’s.

  21. David
    6:57 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

    A few comments:

    1. Cassius Clay did not change his name to Muhammad Ali. Elijah Muhammad chose that name for him.

    2. Jefferson Davis WAS a great American Hero. He and Braxton Bragg made it all but inevitable that the Union would win the War between the States. Davis was an incompetent, irascible fool who could not have led his way out of a wet paper bag while wielding a sword and a pair of scissors.

    In short, Davis was exactly what Lincoln needed in Richmond. Had the idiots of the South elected Breckinridge instead of the idiot Davis, the US might be now two nations.

    3. Ali, the boxer, not the founder of Islam, was fully within his rights as a citizen of America to fight against the heinous, tyrannical draft of the Vietnam War. I think it funny that the same folks who harbor ill will towards Ali over his fight against the Draft hail George W. Bush as a hero because he “joined” the National Guard. These same folks voted for Cheney. I suppose, if one is a Politician of the Right, it is good and proper to use one’s influence to avoid a draft or a war and to send other’s sons and daughters off to war.

    Insane, but this seems to be the point of view of many fools in America.

    No land of the free would have a draft (conscription) which is basically a form of slavery or indentured servitude.

    I, oftentimes, find myself wondering how many of these folks actually served. I served in the military for a bit over a decade. I hold no ill will towards Ali and find his actions heroic. He helped bring an end to a most unjust war which devastated not only Vietnam but Cambodia and Laos as well. The Vietnam War and our bombing of Cambodia was a primary cause of the Khmer Rouge’s rise to power. Our involvement in Vietnam also led directly to the empowerment of the communist party in Laos.

    Ah, the irony of life as a superpower.

    4. Islam has very little to do with the War on Terror, Terrorism or 9-11. I find it humorous that Americans still ignorantly believe that “they hate us for our freedoms” and all of the other nonsensical propaganda. Obama is wrong. Bush was wrong. The American people have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on out here. I’d suggest reading a few books but, I have found that all too many Americans are simply too lazy to actually read and would rather watch the Political Propaganda Arms of the DNC and GOP to get their “knowledge” of the world.

    5. Muhammad Ali severed his ties to the “Black Muslims” of America after traveling to Mecca as did Malcolm X. The “Black Muslims” are an idiot cult based on the ravings of a lunatic convict named Elijah Muhammad. There is nothing about the American Black Muslim movement that has anything at all in common with actual Islam. The Black Muslims are comparable to Jim Jones but, unfortunately, without the Kool Aid.

    6. Muhammad Ali is not a traitor. The incompetent and corrupt “leaders” who led us down the rabbit hole into Vietnam are the traitors. LBJ being the greatest of the lot. They should exhume LBJ, shoot the criminal in the forehead and bury him upside down with a stake through his heart for his crimes.

    • Jonathan Miller
      9:02 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

      Great comments, David. Thanks for weighing in substantively.

    • MIDDAY
      9:05 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

      Excellent comment, sir.

  22. David
    7:24 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

    Slavery was but a small part of the reasons for the decision to attempt secession.

    A greater part was the tyranny of an all powerful, centralized government such as has been created today. This started with Lincoln’s government and has continued through to today as evidenced by the NSA, CIA & Department of Homeland Security. Bush and Obama have continued to all but destroy the Constitution.

    Slavery was in it’s death throes and would have ended naturally as it did in every other nation prior to our most uncivil war. The only places where slavery exists today as a legal or culturally accepted norm is on the African continent and a few Muslim Countries. The West was ridding itself of slavery and America would have followed suit with Europe without Lincoln’s war.

    Even the South, near the end of the war, was speaking openly of abolition. Especially AFTER the raising of Black Confederate regiments.

    To the fellow who stated that Ali was naught but a showman, I argue that you know not the man. He was/is much more than a vaudeville act. He risked everything and was banned from boxing for his stance on the draft and American bigotry. How one can dismiss Ali as a mere showman who acted only to endear himself to the “counterculture” of the 60s/70s is a mystery to me. Everything that I’ve read about the man and every interview and documentary that I’ve watched on Ali refutes this accusation. One may as well dismiss Michael Jordan as nothing but a basketball player or Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp as “just a couple of basketball coaches” or Ben Carson as just a surgeon.

  23. fairplay
    8:41 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

    KSR really has a good thing going. How the addition of Mr. Miller’s thoughts on Jefferson Davis relates to Kentucky athletics is beyond my understanding. Well, at least Smyrna_Cat got Mr. Miller’s narcissism muted a bit.

    • Jonathan Miller
      9:18 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

      Sorry to disappoint you, but as a recovering politician, my narcissism is immutable. As an old man, however, I have to go to bed early,

  24. blubo
    8:57 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

    where can i find the petition against the cassius clay/ali statue?

  25. MIDDAY
    9:14 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

    Great post, Mr. Treasurer/Secretary! I couldn’t agree more, and have gladly signed your petition.

    It’s amazing how so many know so little of Ali, but comment as if they know him intimately. Ali’s post boxing work as a philanthropist/ activist, far outshine his work as a boxer, the greatest of all time. That should say something of his character.

    I’m digging the J Miller contributions to KSR. The citizens of KY need a different perspective and a little culture.

  26. LordEgg
    9:56 am December 1, 2014 Permalink

    folks in fairview gonna be upset.

  27. RandyB
    6:32 pm December 3, 2014 Permalink

    As a Vietnam Veteran, I deeply resent you calling Muhammad Ali a hero when I view him as a loudmouth draft-dodging traitor to his country and his religion. As a history buff, I resent you calling Jefferson Davis, who was a hero in the Mexican War, served as Secretary of War and was no more a racist than Abraham Lincoln, who. as a man of his era, didn’t think negroes were the equal of whites, either. The Emancipation Proclamation did not free the slaves in Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland or Deleware which he needed politically; only the ones in the Deep South where he hgad no jurisdiction. And seceding from the Union was very much a state’s right until the radical Lincoln used the North’s industrial might to deny that Constitutional Right.. Did you know that New York refused to ratify the Constitution until they were assured they could secede. And that the New England states threatened to secede during the War of 1812? I think you should stick to Democrat revisionist history, and telling lies about the present.