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    The most significant Ali document in existence

    1966 Muhammad Ali Signed Letter to Draft Board Requesting Religious Exemption. It's often said that time heals all wounds, and while the statement is belied by the physical toll Muhammad Ali continues to pay for a decade and a half in the professional prize ring, perhaps no figure in American history has endured such a thorough transformation from pariah to national icon. While the brash young fighter earned more than his share of detractors for the vocal self-aggrandizement that characterized his rise from 1960 Olympic Gold Medalist to Heavyweight Champion of the World in 1964, his refusal to accept Vietnam War conscription added rocket fuel to that fire, inflaming the nationalistic ire of the Red Scare mainstream. At the height of the Cold War and the Civil Rights movement, Muhammad Ali suddenly found himself to be the most reviled American athlete since Jack Johnson.

    No item in the public realm speaks so directly to that transformative period in the life and career of Muhammad Ali as does the presented six-page letter, dated "August 23, 1966" and addressed to "General Lewis B. Hershey" and "Colonel Everette S. Stevenson," Directors of Selective Service in Washington, D.C. Ali's draft status has been reclassified earlier in the year, and his appeal denied, actions that left him eligible for immediate induction.


    "Either or both of you are hereby respectfully petitioned to exercise your jurisdiction under Section 1625.3 of the Selective Service Regulations to now (because I am exempt as a minister of religion) request in writing Local Board No. 47, 1405 West Broadway, Louisville, Kentucky 40203, to reopen and consider anew my classification as it now stands..."

    "The issue of whether I am entitled to an appeal and also whether I am entitled to the classification of IV-D exempting me as a minister of religion should not be cast upon the waters of the judiciary to be washed back to the Selective Service System in the form of a decision when the issue in this case has already been decided by the courts in my favor and both I and the Selective Service System would be put to unnecessary expenses and hardships in order to get my rights protected in the judiciary..."

    Ali signs the sixth and final page as "Special Field Minister, the Lost Found Nation of Islam" in 10/10 black ink: "Muhammad Ali A.K.A. Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr." His attorney signs below.

    The document survives in pristine condition without so much as a storage fold, the onion skin pages likely the Ali camp's personal carbon copy with the mailed copy still housed in government archives. We again stress that the signatures on the sixth page are original. The document has remained in our consignor's collection since it was purchased in a 1997 Christie's auction; prior to that, it had been on public display at the Muhammad Ali Museum and Exhibition Center in Louisville.

    As we know, this last attempt for approval of conscientious objector status would fall on deaf ears, and Ali was arrested, found guilty of draft evasion, and stripped of his Heavyweight title, the start of three and a half years of banishment from boxing. On June 28, 1971, the Supreme Court voted unanimously to reverse Ali's conviction, with this letter serving as the basis for the Court's decision. Three years later Ali would regain the Heavyweight title with his historic underdog victory over George Foreman in "The Rumble in the Jungle," completing his long and arduous climb back to the pinnacle of the sport. Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.

    More information about Muhammad Ali.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2015
    21st-22nd Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 10
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