At the same time the signing ceremony for the Panama Canal treaty took place in Washington, D.C., during the Carter Administration, a National Rehabilitation meeting was in progress at the Washington Hilton. The most famous man in the world and heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali, was staying there as a guest of President Carter for the signing ceremony.
The Champ was fascinated by all of the people with severe disabilities, wheelchairs, respirators, etc. It was explained that these were professional experts, many with Ph.Ds., who served other individuals with disabilities. He was fascinated and asked many questions. The vocational evaluators in the group invited Ali to their small party that night. He said he would come after his program with the president.
The group of rehabilitation professionals were extremely excited about their invited guest. But by 11 p.m. they had sort of lost faith when in came Ali with his wife. He said he would take his wife back to their room, as she was exhausted, and come right back. He returned with many questions about the group's work and turned out to be the nicest, least pretentious famous person one could imagine. It was the best party ever.
Ali used to train in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland for some of his championship fights. My coworker found out where it was and sneaked up there with his 9-year-old son and his 9-year-old friend. The boys looked through a cabin window where the Champ was eating mid-day with his training staff. One of the staff saw the boys and yelled for them to get out of there.
But Ali said let the boys to stay. He actually put on gloves with them in the ring. He got on his knees to be more their size. Every time they touched him, he feigned like he was hurt. Could two little boys have anything more exciting happen in their lives?
Mr. Ali was much more than even "The Greatest."
Chuck Smolkin, Lutherville