Houston Matters

Remembering Muhammad Ali’s Houston Trial for Draft Evasion

With the passing of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, we thought it’d be a good time to tell the story of the boxing legend’s connection to Houston. The year was 1967, and the Vietnam War was being waged. Ali was drafted into the U.S. Armed Forces, and he was to report for induction right here in […]

Muhammad Ali in Houston - BannerWith the passing of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, we thought it’d be a good time to tell the story of the boxing legend’s connection to Houston.

The year was 1967, and the Vietnam War was being waged. Ali was drafted into the U.S. Armed Forces, and he was to report for induction right here in Houston.

Now, Ali – after converting to Islam and changing him name – saw himself as a conscientious objector to the war. The day of his induction was April 28, 1967. Accounts say his name was called three times, and he refused to step forward. He was arrested and charged with a felony.

But his connection to Houston didn’t end there. He stood trial here as well.

His second wife, Khalilah Camacho-Ali (whom Houston Matters spoke with back in 2014 before a speaking engagement in Houston) recalls the couple’s time living here during the trial as pretty challenging. The New York State Athletic Commission had stripped her husband of his title and suspended his boxing license. Suddenly, he couldn’t make a living and support his family.

“It wasn’t just a trial for him. It was a trial for me as well,” she said. “Because — us being married and everything — this man can not make a living for his family. I had to literally ask my dad to give me my college money and help support him for three years. And it was rough all over.”

Ali was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison plus a $10,000 fine. But in 1971, after his appeals went all the way to the US Supreme Court, the conviction was overturned. Khalilah recalls the feeling of vindication.

“Wow. It was just a very intense, happy moment,” she said. “It’s like a burden just has been lifted.”

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