Celebrate Black History
Joseph Louis Barrow (May 13, 1914 – April 12, 1981), better known as Joe Louis, was an American professional boxer and the World Heavyweight Champion from 1937 to 1949. He is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Nicknamed the “Brown Bomber”, Louis helped elevate boxing from a nadir in popularity in the post-Jack Dempsey era by establishing a reputation as an honest, hardworking fighter at a time when the sport was dominated by gambling interests. Louis’ championship reign lasted 140 consecutive months, during which he participated in 27 championship fights, 26 championship fights during his reign; the 27th, against Ezzard Charles, was a challenge to Charles’ Heavyweight title and so is not included in Louis’ reign. All in all, Joe was victorious in 25 successful title defenses, a record for the heavyweight division. In 2005, Louis was ranked as the #1 heavyweight of all-time by the International Boxing Research Organization, and was ranked #1 on The Ring’s list of the 100 Greatest Punchers of All-Time.
Despite his remarkable achievements and tremendous popularity, Louis may be as important for what he did not accomplish as for what he did. Like many heroes he has been credited for much that he did not do. Commentators, for example, have overstated his impact on racist attitudes and practices. There is little evidence that Louis’s success or that of other black athletes translated into a general acceptance of blacks or recommended them for roles outside sport.
Where Louis did change attitudes was among blacks. His position at the top of his sport, his celebrity status, and his public image helped bolster the confidence of a people whose heroes were rarely accorded white attention or respect. In the difficult time of war his decision to cooperate with and become a symbol of a government that was far from fair to him and his people offered a constructive, albeit imperfect, course of action.
In the end, Joe Louis was another edition of the American myth of the self-made man-that anyone who is industrious, patriotic, and moral can rise from the very bottom to the top of society where wealth, power, and fame await him. As with Louis, not all self-made men are as they appear to be. Not only did he have a lot of help; his wealth was more illusory than real.
Louis died of cardiac arrest in Desert Springs Hospital near Las Vegas on April 12, 1981, just hours after his last public appearance viewing the Larry Holmes-Trevor Berbick Heavyweight Championship. His funeral was paid for in part by former competitor and friend, Max Schmeling, who also acted as a pallbearer.
This Day In Black History (Feb. 5):
1. 1st BLACK FOREIGN MINISTER (1958) – During a distinguished career that spanned nearly four decades, Clifton R. Wharton, Sr. (1899-1990) was the first black Foreign Service Officer in the U.S. Department of State. While he was not the nation’s first black ambassador, Wharton was the first black diplomat to become ambassador by rising through the ranks of the Foreign Service rather than by political appointment and the first black diplomat to lead a U.S. delegation to a European country.
After a series of postings that included Liberia, the Canary Islands, Spain and Madagascar, Wharton became consul general in Portugal in 1949. In 1953 he became consul general in Marseilles, France.
2. 1ST BLACK ELECTED TO THE NBA HALL OF FAME (1972) – Bob Douglas becomes the first African American elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
3. CIVIL RIGHTS MURDERER CONVICTED (1994) – Ku Klux Klan member Byron De La Beckwith is convicted of the 1963 murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers.
The 1996 film Ghosts of Mississippi tells the story of the murder and 1994 trial. James Woods portrayed Beckwith in an Academy Award-nominated performance.
- Best Boxers Of All Time (mademan.com)