In 1969, what is now the University of Arkansas-Little Rock received a surprise visit from the former heavyweight champion.
Looking through the Arkansas Gazette archives, I was surprised to learn Muhammad Ali visited Little Rock University — now known as UALR — in 1969. The legendary boxer had been banned from boxing after refusing military service two years earlier, and was on a speaking tour at college campuses nationwide. His swing through Arkansas also included speeches at the UA, Philander Smith College and what is now UAPB (where the photo in this post was taken).
The below is from March 11, 1969:
ALI’S SURROUNDED AT LRU AFTER SIDE-DOOR ENTRANCE
Muhammad Ali paid a surprise visit to Little Rock University Monday morning and spent about an hour in the student union talking with students, shaking hands and signing autographs. Ali entered the side door of the Union with several Negro students and stood talking to the Negro students inside for about five minutes before any of the white students seem to recognize him.
“If you want a chocolate one,” he said putting his arm around a Negro student, “or a honey-gold one,” he said grabbing another girl, “or a peach one,” as he put his arm still another.
Negro students escorted Ali to the parking lot. The students gave a loud cheer as Ali rode away in his black limousine.