Muhammad Ali, the legendary boxer and 1986 Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipient, died Friday, June 3rd, in Arizona. Ali had been at a medical center in Scottsdale since Thursday with what had been had described as a ‘respiratory issue’.
Ali was one of the inaugural class of Medalists in 1986, and shared the stage on Ellis Island with the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Rosa Parks, Elie Wiesel and Barbara Walters. He received his Medal and exuded a cool calm throughout the event, He remains one of the most admired and well-known of all our Medalists over the last 30 years.
One memorable quote from Ali seems uniquely important this week: “I guess I'd settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people, And I wouldn't even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was."
NECO Chairman sent the following letter to the Ali family commemorating his passing and offering his condolences. In part, the letter read:
On behalf of the entire NECO and Ellis Island Medal of Honor family, please accept our deepest condolences on the passing of Muhammad Ali.
We are proud to count him among our Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipients. His strength, perseverance and integrity will continue to influence the work we do promoting equality, diversity and brotherhood throughout the nation. The Medal was founded in 1986 and I’m very proud that we were able to honor Muhammad that inaugural year. He shared the stage with Rosa Parks, Joe DiMaggio, Coretta Scott King, Elie Wiesel and many other iconic Americans. Even with all those famous names, he stood out as a man rooted in his convictions and with empathy for those less fortunate or gifted than himself.
The accolades and memorials held in his honor have been beautiful and truly touching. There are few individuals who merit this level of adoration and appreciation, and unquestionably, Muhammad Ali was one of them. He was not only a star athlete, but he was a symbol of righteousness and self-determination, inspiring generations of Americans to believe in their gifts and to serve their nation and their faith.
Please know that the entire Ali family is in our hearts and prayers during this difficult time.
Muhammad Ali, truly one of the greats, will be missed by all who loved his brash humor, athletic prowess and deep-rooted integrity, patriotism and faith.