WKU gallery show highlights Ali with images from Courier Journal photojournalists

More than a dozen staff photographers for the Courier Journal documented Muhammad Ali’s rise to fame and his later years fighting a different fight, Parkinson’s Disease.

On March 11, Western Kentucky University and the School of Journalism & Broadcasting will open a tribute to the photographs and photographers of Muhammad Ali. Picture: Muhammad Ali, a hard cover book, will be celebrated in a 50-photo exhibit at Jody Richards Hall Gallery.

Celebrated as one of the greatest boxers of all time, Ali (born Cassius Clay) was also an activist and a philanthropist. But it was his heavyweight career that made him one of the most famous sports figures of the 20th century. Ali remains the only three-time champion of that division.

Cassius Clay was born in Louisville in 1942, and it would be his home for his entire life; his funeral procession in 2016 rivaled royalty. He was dedicated to Louisville and Louisville was dedicated to him. This gave the staff at the Courier Journal special access to the boxer during high times as well as later in life when his feeble body still resonated the spirit of The Greatest. Photojournalists like Bill Luster, C. Thomas Hardin, Larry Spitzer and Keith Williams were there to capture it all.

“No matter what stage he was on, how big it was, if there was someone from Louisville there, he’d always recognize you,” said former Courier Journal columnist Billy Reed.

The exhibition will open with a reception at 4:30 p.m. March 11 at the Jody Richards Hall Gallery. A roundtable, moderated by book editor Pat McDonough featuring Courier Journal photojournalists Keith Williams, C. Thomas Hardin and Sam Upshaw Jr., will begin at 6 p.m. in the Jody Richards Hall Auditorium. All will be available for a book signing of Picture: Muhammad Ali. A portion of the book sales will go toward a scholarship fund for WKU Photojournalism students.

The exhibition and roundtable are free and open to the public. The gallery exhibition will be open through May 3.

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