showed a Ku Klux Klansman starting to hang a Negro. Uncle Sam is grabbing the
Klansman and saying, "Hold it, stupid! We don't lynch niggers like that
nowadays—we can draft them and get the same results."
those cartoons," Clay instructed. "Look how bold our leader is. You
know I gotta respect and obey a man as bold as that. If the government don't do
nothing about it, then I gotta respect him."
A few nights
later, after Cassius had been firmly entrenched in 1-A, a group of young men
assembled in the living room of Clay's small house in Miami. "We're here to
sec something big!" Clay advised me as I entered.
seat!" said Sam Saxon, one of the most enigmatic figures about Clay.
"Cap'n Sam" functions as a sergeant at arms in a Miami mosque of the
Muslims, and Cassius himself has referred to Saxon as "my bodyguard"
(and at other times complained about newspapermen who used the same word to
describe Saxon). Sam was one of Clay's earliest mentors in Black Muslimism and
now has been promoted to the post of aide-de-training-camp at a salary of $150
a week, more than he makes on his regular job as a shoeshiner at racetracks
around Miami. Saxon is a powerful Negro with blacksmith's arms, light
reddish-brown skin and brownish-amber eyes, a graceful man with an easy step
and a shy smile that shows thin gold linings on his teeth. When he gets
excited, his voice rises an octave and his words double in tempo, like a
caricature Negro in an early film. But most of the time he is quiet and steady,
a rock for Cassius to lean on, and although many oldtimers claim that Saxon is
one of the foremost white-haters in the Muslim movement, he is capable of an
occasional act of fellowship, such as borrowing your car or shaking your hand.
"Sometimes I get the feeling that Sam is putting me on, or putting the
Muslims on, Or putting somebody on," says a friend. Perhaps this is because
Saxon has at least a slight sense of humor, the rarest personality trait in the
confraternity of the Black Muslims.
Sitting at the
dining room table that night was Rudolph Arnett Clay, whose father belatedly
rechristened him Rudolph Valentino Clay and who has re-rechristened himself
Rahman Ali. The younger brother of Cassius Clay, Rahman (pronounced Rockmon)
was writing a letter home to his young wife in Chicago. He was giving the task
intense concentration except for occasional glances toward the television set
that had been rolled into the stuffy living-dining area for the occasion.
Rudolph is a very black, mustached man of 22 years and striking appearance.
Another of Elijah Muhammad's true believers, he is also said to be an extreme
hater of whites, although he is civil to white devils. It is only after several
talks with him that you begin to realize he is giving you the bare minimum of
shrift with a friendly smile on his face.
taciturn driver and general helper, was also in the assemblage that warm
evening in Miami, as were a few anonymous Negroes, the kind who wander off the
street and are invited inside by Cassius because he admires their pigmentation.
In the kitchen three Muslim "sisters" puttered about in their severe
white dresses, disassembling the evening meal. Back in a corner of the living
room, out of the way of the men in the true Muslim tradition, sat an attractive
Negro girl who conspicuously was not introduced to me. She remained silent
throughout the evening. The entertainment before the house was the CBS news,
and Senator Wayne Morse was denouncing the U.S. role in Vietnam.
that?" said Cassius. "All of them big men, they're saying we shouldn't
The group watched
silently as Senator Russell Long asked General Maxwell Taylor if the United
States was the international good guy or the international bad guy. Then the
camera zoomed in on a newsman interviewing a GI at the front while shells
exploded in the background. Cassius craned forward and said, "Is that real
shooting going on?" He was assured it was. The GI told his interviewer that
"if I had anything to say about it, I'd go home and spend a little time and
come back again." This brought a titter to the room.
Inmates of the
Indiana Girls' School rioted on the TV screen, moving Clay to shout, "It's
the end of time," a favorite theme of his that he shares with his real
father, Cassius Clay Sr., and his spiritual father, Elijah Muhammad. "We're
in the last days! The last days!"
And suddenly a
hush came over the room. Cassius Clay, the one and only Muhammad Ali, was on TV
spitting out his antidraft speech to Interviewer Bob Halloran. "Yes, sir,
that was a great surprise to me. It was not me who said that I was classified
1-Y the last time.... It was the government who said that I'm not able.... Now
in order to be 1-A I do not remember being called nowhere to be reclassified as
1-A. These fellows got together and made the statement that I'm 1-A without
knowing if I'm as good as I was the last time or better. Now they had 30 men to
pick from in Louisville, and I'm also sure that there are at least 30 young men
that they could have picked from. Instead they picked out the heavyweight
champion of the whole world. There's just one in my class. You have a lot of
men in baseball they could have called. You have a lot of men in football they
coulda called. You have a lotta men that they coulda called that are of school
age and have taken the test that are 1-A. Now, I was not 1-A the last time I
was tested. All of a sudden they seem to be anxious to push me in the Army....
And another thing I don't understand: Why me? A man who pays the salary of at
least 50,000 men in Vietnam, a man who the government gets $6 million from a
year from two fights, a man who can pay in two fights for three bumma