Muhammad Ali – the people’s champion, the greatest of all time. While most of us know ‘The Greatest of All Time’ for his battles in the ring, some Tulsans remember him for a different reason.
The people’s champion made a few stops in Tulsa over the years, but one surprise stop at Booker T. Washington in 1970 made a lasting impact on Calvin Humphrey and several others.
Calvin Humphrey said he was getting ready to leave school one day, when, "It was announced over the PA system that all students were to report to the gym."
Not knowing what to expect, Humphrey stepped into the hallway and suddenly saw a man towering above the rest.
"He didn't seem to be walking as much as he was floating," he said.
Instantly awestruck, Humphrey joined his classmates in the gym to listen to Ali speak.
He said, as he spoke, you could hear a pin drop. It was a speech, Humphrey said, that gave him purpose.
“Never stop dreaming, don't let nobody take away our dreams," he said.
Ali's visit came at a time of struggle for Tulsa; Humphrey said segregation was still an issue. But Ali’s message was one of perseverance and opportunity.
"There was a world bigger than Tulsa, and we were to do everything we could to see to it that we were a part of that world," Humphrey said.
Jim Goodwin also met Ali during one of his visits. He said it was hard not to be inspired by what Ali had overcome.
Just to be near Ali gave others the spark to overcome racism and prejudice, and inspired many to live successful lives.
Goodwin said, "How electrifying it was just to be in his presence."
"He lit a spark in us. He lit a fire that we could do things that nobody thought we could do," said Humphrey.
Ali's picture still graces the halls of Booker T. Washington. Humphrey hopes it will inspire younger generations to not give up on their dreams.