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Muhammed Ali – 1942-2016: Atlanta city officials pay respects

By David Pendered

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and three councilmembers released statements Saturday regarding the death of boxing great Muhammed Ali. Ali’s personal connection to Atlanta includes his lighting of the Olympic cauldron to commence the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Ali died Friday at age 74. Ali had been hospitalized in the Phoenix area earlier in the week with respiratory problems, according to wsj.com, citing a report by the Associated Press.

Ali himself was an Olympic gold medalist. Fighting as a light-heavyweight, he won the gold in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. According to legend he threw away the medal after being barred from entering a hamburger restaurant in his hometown of Louisville, Ky.

Here are the remarks from Atlanta’s officials, as released by the council’s media office:

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell

Ceasar Mitchell

Ceasar Mitchell

  • “As an elected official, I’ve been blessed to work with many captains of industry, government leaders and a host of change agents who are undeniably great.  But the loss of Muhammad Ali, the man who helped define a generation, reminds us that to truly be considered ‘The Greatest,’ one must extend their impact beyond title or position to help uplift others. Ali was such a man.
  • “He believed in peace, justice, equity and equality. And his efforts to make the world a better place deserve our praise.
  • “While Ali gave us many indelible moments in sports history, his lighting of the torch at the 1996 Olympic Games – a symbol of unity and goodwill – marks an especially proud moment for Atlanta and the world. Ever the consummate showman, with a quick wit that appealed to the masses, his life and legacy truly embody the essence of greatness. Our deepest condolences to the Ali family during this time of loss. The world will remember his name.”

Atlanta City Councilmember Cleta Winslow, District 4 (West End area)

Cleta Winslow

Cleta Winslow

  • “We have lost one of the greatest athletes of the 21st-century and we have lost a great person.
  • “During the Vietnam War, when it was not popular to be a conscientious objector, Muhammad Ali stood up for what he believed in as it was taught to him by his religion. As a result, he was put in jail for over 2 1/2 years.
  • “I had the wonderful opportunity of seeing Muhammad Ali fight as a boxer when he came to Atlanta for one of his heavyweight fights. I was also thrilled when I got a chance to personally meet him when he was being honored as a Trumpet Awards recipient. My personal impression of him was that, in his later years, he was strong, yet tender; he was great, yet humble; and throughout his life, he gave as much love as he got from others.
  • “In 1996, during the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games here in Atlanta, Muhammad Ali stepped up before more than 80,000 cheering fans in what now is known as Turner Field and lit the Olympic torch that signaled that the Olympic Games were about to begin. That was such an energizing,  thrilling and electrifying moment.  The stadium erupted in cheers because they realized that the greatest was among them – Mr. Muhammad Ali. Rest in peace Muhammad Ali.”

Atlanta City Councilmember Michael Julian Bond, Post 1 At-Large

Michael Julian Bond

Michael Julian Bond

  • “I, like the rest of the world, am saddened to hear of the loss of the great Muhammad Ali. My condolences and sympathy are extended to the Ali family and admirers around the world. This man symbolized strength, not just in the boxing ring.
  • “What he endured away from the ring was challenging and more taxing.
  • Muhammad Ali was not just dominant in boxing and in politics, his true dominance was his strength of character. The challenges that faced away from his profession, demonstrated his indomitable moral character. He was a fascination to all who met him. His electrifying personality, his discerning intellect and huge heart made him the world’s friend.
  • “Of all of the great attributes that men aspire to have, he possessed them. He was the greatest.”

Atlanta City Councilmember Andre Dickens, Post 3 At-Large

Andre Dickens

Andre Dickens

  • “Quite simply, Muhammad Ali was the Greatest. As a boxer, he changed the world  ‎with his desire for peace. He put his principles first no matter the consequences.
  • “One of the defining moments for the 1996 Olympics was when Muhammad Ali lit the torch. Let us all take a moment to remember the affect that one person can have on the world.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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