The Soul of a Butterfly In a new memoir written with his daughter Hana, Muhammad Ali, 62, reflects on his career, family, spiritual life and his encounters with racism. In this excerpt, the Olympic lightweight champ orders a meat at a restaurant in Louisville in 1960.
I was so proud, sitting there with my gold medal around my neck. (I wore it everywhere in those days.) The waitress looked at [my friend Ronnie and me] and said, "We don't serve Negroes." I politely replied, "Well, we don't eat them either." I told her I was Cassius Clay, the Olympic champion. Ronnie pointed to my gold medal. Then the waitress said that she was sorry, but we had to leave.
Before I was kicked out of the restaurant, I was thinking what the medal could mean for me. The more I thought about it, the more I began to see that if that medal didn't mean equality for all, it didn't mean anything.... Over the years I have told some people I had lost it, but no one ever found it. That's because I lost it on purpose. The world should know the truth—it's somewhere at the bottom of the Ohio River.