Muhammad Ali's refusal to be drafted during the war in Vietnam highlighted a racial, philosophical and political element of the conflict. "Why should they ask me to ... drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam," the boxing champion said at the time, "while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs?" Ali was stripped of his championship after his conviction for refusing induction and did not fight professionally for over three years. The Supreme Court reversed his conviction in 1971. An excerpt from The Post of June 21, 1967:
HOUSTON, June 20 (UPI) -- Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, contending he is a Black Muslim minister and not subject to the draft, was found guilty in Federal court today of avoiding military service. He was given the maximum sentence -- five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Ali stood rigidly and taller than his three lawyers, staring straight ahead while an all-white jury announced its verdict of guilty after some 20 minutes deliberation, then again minutes later while U.S. District Judge Joe Ingraham pronounced the sentence.
"It's just what I thought," Ali said of the verdict. "It bears out the teachings of the honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Mighty Allah."
Ali changed his name from Cassius Clay after his conversion to the Black Muslim faith about three years ago.
His lawyers said they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be. Ali had once said a person could not get justice in a white man's courts.
Did he expect to get the maximum? he was asked.
"Oh, yes, I thought I would," the tall champion said.
Ali said he would stay in Houston a few days, free on bond, and then go to San Antonio, Tex., or Hawaii or Puerto Rico. He did not expand on those travel plans.
There normally would have been a pre-sentence investigation, conducted by the judge, but Ali asked that this be waived.
"I'd appreciate it if the court will do it now, give me my sentence now, instead of waiting and stalling for time," he said.
Quinnan Hodges, one of his attorneys, said the former champion "told us he wants to sleep tonight, that's why he wants to know now what's going to happen to him." ...
Ali and U.S. Attorney Morton Susman exchanged a few words shortly after the guilty verdict was read and before sentence was passed. ...
"He had generally conducted himself in a law-abiding manner," said Susman. "He won a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics and won the championship in 1964. He was converted to the Black Muslims in 1964 -- that is where his troubles began. It is a tragic thing that a fine young athlete could be brought under these religious and political ideas."
Ali interrupted him. "My religion is not political," he said.
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