Muhammad Ali: Fightin' Irish?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A lot is known about Muhammed Ali: he's a three-time world heavyweight boxing champion; he was born Cassius Clay and changed his name when he converted to Islam; he was the self-proclaimed "Champion of the World"; he floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. But what is less known about the famous pugilist is that he is of Irish descent. His great-grandfather, Abe Grady, left Ireland to settle in Kentucky in the 1860s, and married a freed slave. Their granddaughter, Odessa Lee Grady Clay, was Ali's mother.

Yesterday Muhammad Ali returned to Ennis, Ireland, his great-grandfather's hometown, for a sentimental look at his family's ancient homeland. Ennis Mayor Frankie Neylon was there for the champ's big homecoming, and joins us this morning.


Frankie Neylon

Comments [3]

Barbara Jones

My great grandmother, Delia Vaughn McCue immigrated from County Leitrim, Ireland the same time as Muhammed Ali's great grandfather. She too married a freed-slave who was also served in the Calvary in the Civil war. They met out on Long Island but settled in Brooklyn, NY; had 8 children, the last being my grandmother Eva. We have photos of her and her Uncle Peter taken in Ireland & U.S.

I, too, plan on visiting Ireland but I am not famous like Ali so I doubt if the red carpet will be rolled out.- lol

Dec. 05 2011 07:32 PM
Patrick Carroll

WRT the trip to Ireland: Oh, for the love of God, give a brother a break.

On a related note, my grandfather left Ireland for the next parish over, Boston, in the 1880's. In the 1970's I was able to go to Mountrath, Co. Laois, and meet old women who claimed to remember him as a young lad. How cool is that? An ocean, and a century distant, and still a memory.

Of course, you never want to do anything bad in such a place. The story will live long after you.

Sep. 02 2009 10:24 PM
Gordon Remington

in the audio story, John said that Ali went to Ireland to visit his "ancestors," who by definition are those who came before him. Since his ancestor Abe Grady came to the U.S. in the 1860s, any "ancestors" left in Ireland would either be dead or extremely aged. The proper term would be "relatives" or "cousins."

Moreover, there was an implication by John that Abe Grady had a sexual relationship with a slave, while all the stories I have read state that Abe Grady married a freed slave - which would have been an act of courage given the social situation of the time.

Sep. 02 2009 11:37 AM

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