LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Before he was a Kentucky state lawmaker, E. Porter Hatcher, Jr. was a friend and neighbor of a young Muhammad Ali.
“Ali was at the 33rd block of Grand Avenue, and my dad was at the 32nd block,” said Hatcher’s daughter, Ramona Gray.
Gray says the friendship continued into adulthood.
“I do recall him going out to some of the fights to see Ali,” said Gray.
When Hatcher died in 2012, Gray says she came across a piece of history.
“This was dated December the 7th, 1978,” Gray said while holding a proclamation, changing the name of a five-mile stretch of road in the heart of Ali’s hometown of Louisville.
Walnut Street and Michigan Drive were renamed Muhammad Ali Boulevard in honor of the boxing legend.
Serving as the 12th Ward Alderman at the time, Hatcher sponsored the name change.
“Muhammad Ali was so important to so many people. Just to have a piece of the history just really makes me proud to know that my dad was a part of it,” Gray said.
The proclamation was attached to a large-scale version of the new street sign given to her father, along with an actual sign for Walnut Street.
“I take a lot of pride that he knew that it was gonna be important that the street was called Muhammad Ali,” said Gray.
An article in the Kentucky New Era, dated November of 1978, shows not everyone supported the renaming.
The article says “opponents included people who objected to Ali’s failure to submit to the military draft.”
Despite some opposition, the ordinance creating Muhammad Ali Boulevard passed by a close, 6-5 vote, changing its name to reflect the Louisville native.
“My dad was pretty determined. I think they would’ve fought through it, and now you see, years later, how important it was,” Gray said.
Ali died on Friday at the age of 74 in Arizona and will be buried at a private ceremony on Friday.
There will be a public memorial service on Friday at 2 p.m. at the KFC Yum! Center.
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