The city of Louisville, Kentucky is renaming its international airport in honour of its most famous son: Muhammad Ali.
On 16 January 2016, it was announced that the Louisville International Airport will become the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.
The Muhammad Ali Center revealed the change in a Twitter post:
We are so excited to announce that @FlyLouisville will be changing it's name to Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport. Keeping Muhammad's legacy alive in his hometown that he loved so much is vital to the Ali Center's mission.
What a great birthday present for The Champ! pic.twitter.com/7bICfilkzw
— Muhammad Ali Center (@AliCenter) January 16, 2019
The move is a fitting tribute to the man who is not only considered the greatest boxer of all time but an iconic civil rights activist, a proud Muslim, a consummate showman and arguably one of the most famous people of the last 100 years.
In 2016, a petition calling for the airport to be named after Ali was presented to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. After continued efforts from local supporters and media, the decision was made to go through with the change earlier this year.
“Muhammad Ali belonged to the world, but he only had one hometown, and fortunately, that is our great city of Louisville,” Mayor Fischer said. “Muhammad became one of the most well-known people to ever walk the Earth and has left a legacy of humanitarianism and athleticism that has inspired millions of people.”
Ali was famously outspoken about politics, race and other social issues, often drawing criticism because of his beliefs. Even so, he never wavered, famously declaring:
“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.”
His reasons for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War have also resonated throughout history:
“Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them, Viet Cong….Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”
But most importantly, Ali put his faith above all else:
“The only true satisfaction comes from honouring and worshipping God….Being a true Muslim is the most important thing in the world to me. It means more to me than being black or being American.”
Muhammad Ali, who died in 2016, once said his “greatness came and started in Louisville.” Renaming its airport after him is certainly a wonderful way to remember his life.