1966-08-17

Muhammad Ali and the United States Draft

In changing his name, Mohammed Ali intended to disavow his culture, and to adopt membership in the Black Muslim movement of which he is an apostIe. When, a little bit later he was called by the Selective Service Board to serve in the... Read more
In changing his name, Mohammed Ali intended to disavow his culture, and to adopt membership in the Black Muslim movement of which he is an apostIe. When, a little bit later he was called by the Selective Service Board to serve in the Armed Forces, Mohammed Ali explained that he was proof against such laws as a minister of the Islamic faith as taught by Elijah Mohammed. The courts were not impressed, the Boxing Commission has stripped him
of his boxing crown and very soon, assuming the Supreme Court of the United states goes along, Mohammed Ali will go to jail or renounce his citizenship and forfeit his bail. I should like to begin by asking Mr. Ali what makes him believe that the 
same country that glorified Joe Louis would want to persecute you? I think you have in fact said, publicly, on a number of occasions, that America was looking for a way to get back at you because we are a white culture, and I'm asking you if we were looking for a way to get at you, why was it that Joe Louis was so popular with the same white America? Why do we have it in for you? Read less
New York, NY ( Federal)
August 17, 1966
Submitted by: wfbjr

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Per Curiam

Court Per Curiam
4th/ 2,345 in Courts and Law

Since the Appeal Board gave no reasons for its denial of the petitioner's claim, there is absolutely no way of knowing upon which of the three grounds offered in the Department's letter it relied. Yet the Government now acknowledges that two of those grounds were not valid. This case, therefore, falls squarely within the four... Read more

Since the Appeal Board gave no reasons for its denial of the petitioner's claim, there is absolutely no way of knowing upon which of the three grounds offered in the Department's letter it relied. Yet the Government now acknowledges that two of those grounds were not valid. This case, therefore, falls squarely within the four corners of this Court's decision in Sicurella v. United States. There, as here, the Court was asked to hold that an error in an advice letter prepared by the Department of Justice did not require reversal of a criminal conviction because there was a ground on which the Appeal Board might properly have denied a conscientious objector classification.

The application of this doctrine in the area of Selective Service law goes back at least to 1945, and Judge Learned Hand's opinion for the Second Circuit in United States v. Cain. It is a doctrine that has been consistently and repeatedly followed by the federal courts in dealing with the criminal sanctions of the selective service laws.

The long established rule of law embodied in these settled precedents thus clearly requires that the judgment before us be reversed.

It is so ordered.

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William F. Buckley, Jr.

December 12, 1968

Well, now, if you hadn't changed your name and your religion, in your judgment, you would have continued to have been listed as undraftable?

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Muhammad Ali

I believe so, yes. But it's debatable, you know, you have a right to say what you believe, and I have a right

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Muhammad Ali

December 12, 1968

Well, the reason I can see is Joe Louis is what you would call, or what a white would call a good, red-blooded American boy who went to the Army and told the world, we must fight for our country, and he, in his times, he didn't have the protestin' and the things they are havin' today, but I would say that I receive respect by not... Read more

December 12, 1968

Well, the reason I can see is Joe Louis is what you would call, or what a white would call a good, red-blooded American boy who went to the Army and told the world, we must fight for our country, and he, in his times, he didn't have the protestin' and the things they are havin' today, but I would say that I receive respect by not only blacks around the world, now that I'm a Muslim, but also all through out white America, moreso than any boxer including Joe Louis. And mainly by the college youth of today. So, I'm just a lot different from, I would say, Joe Louis, I guess that's why I'm looked at different.

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Muhammad Ali

December 12, 1968

I'm not blaming the judges, and I'm not cryin', I told them my bags are packed, and clean out my sail, because I'm ready to go to jail. I’m not cryin', I’m not hjjackin' no planes, I have my draft card, it's not burnt. And I would say that they should know better, 'but I'm not cryin' about it. I'm a man. And I would like to say that... Read more

December 12, 1968

I'm not blaming the judges, and I'm not cryin', I told them my bags are packed, and clean out my sail, because I'm ready to go to jail. I’m not cryin', I’m not hjjackin' no planes, I have my draft card, it's not burnt. And I would say that they should know better, 'but I'm not cryin' about it. I'm a man. And I would like to say that the judges can look at this as a fraud in the beginning, if they want, and then they can still look at the third case, is he sincere as a minister, or is he real? I'm just playin' it by ear, I'm relyin' on Almighty God, Allah, and whatever happens happens. I'm not tryin' to convince the jury or the judge that I'm sincere. We took the papers in, we did the best, we go under the law, and what happens, happens. But we're sure that they know that I am.

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Supporting info

Firing Line Broadcast Records: Muhammad Ali and the Negro Movement (1968)

- Firing Line / Hoover Institution Archives