Kennedy's Talk Muhammad Ali 

  Not many people can say that multiple members of their family met and hung out with  Muhammad Ali. Ironically, four days before Ali passed away, I recorded this conversation where Adam P. Kennedy and Dr. Joseph C. Kennedy talked about their experiences meeting Muhammad Ali. 

The Kennedy’s Talk Muhammad Ali

by Canaan Kennedy

  My father recalls: 

Adam P. Kennedy: I was in high school. You [Joseph Kennedy] took me out of school because you were going to Chicago. It was the early days of Africare. You had gotten Muhammad Ali to give money to Africare [from an upcoming fight with Chuck Wepner]. So we went to Chicago and we went to the Headquarters of the Nation of Islam and Muhammad Ali was there, so was Joe Louis, Don King, Billy Conn, Jesse Jackson, Dick Gregory, Howard Cosell and many other celebrities and other sports figures. I have all of their autographs downstairs. Stevie Wonder came later and I spent about a half hour sitting at Stevie Wonder's table, because Leon [Kennedy] was there and he knew Stevie Wonder so he introduced me. I love Stevie Wonder, he gave a brief preformance during the festivities. After the event was over a few people stuck around including, Stevie Wonder, he asked if he could play a little bit more. There were only about twenty people. He played for about an hour. Meeting Ali was one of the most exciting moments in my life. Ali was one of my icons, one of my heroes after my father, and I remember, he was more charismatic and dashing than television could ever portray him. He was funny, warm and personable. 


  My grandfather recalls:

  Dr. Joseph Kennedy: C. Payne and I were called up to the stage in this theatre and Muhammad Ali announced that he would give $50,000 to Africare and Don King said that he couldn’t be so generous so he would only give $10,000. So we got a check for $60,000 and we walked out of that theatre just smiling because we had $60,000 from Muhammad Ali and Don King.  

  Adam P. Kennedy: Do you remember when we were standing next to Billy Conn, who fought Joe Louis on a few occasions? Billy Conn came in and we were near the door and Billy Conn asked if we knew where Joe was, he kept asking “Where was Joe?" About an hour later Joe Louis showed up. But it was absolutely amazing. I guess I was about fourteen or fifteen. Now this was around 74’ or 75’ in Chicago.

  Adam P. Kennedy: My uncle James, [Joseph Kennedy's brother], I don’t know where they met Ali but they became friends with him and went up to his training camp in upstate New York and they have quite a few pictures of Ali with the family. Ali invited them to numerous fights.

  Also, I remember after Dad and I were in Africa together [1980], I went to England and a few other countries and when I came back on Christmas day Muhammad Ali was getting off the plane at the same time and we all got together and we there in the airport talking to Muhammad Ali.  

  Sidenote - My cousin Leon Isaac Kennedy produced, wrote and starred in the remake of Body and Soul in 1981 with Muhammad Ali, they became close friends. My great uncle James was also in the film.  


   I never saw him fight and I never met him, but I loved and respected him. Through the stories of my family I pay tribute to Muhammad Ali, “The Greatest”. To one of my idols. Rest in peace.  

  *All images belong to their rightful owners

Leon Isaac Kennedy, Muhammad Ali and Jayne Kennedy
Stevie Wonder, Howard Cosell, Fred Williamson, Clifton Davis, and Muhammad Ali (circa 1974-1975)
*The newspaper clipping and autographs are from my father's scrapbook