“Save Me Joe Louis – Save Me”
By: George Joseph
My name is George Joseph. I moved to Las Vegas from Detroit in 1974. Born and raised in the Motor City and attended Wayne State University. I had the real honor and pleasure in Las Vegas to know the greatest heavyweight boxing champion of all times, Joe Louis. I had the even greater honor and pleasure of marrying one of Joe’s daughters, Candice…The most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life. We’ve been together thirty seven years, which of course means…”I haven’t won a fight in 37 years.” My official record is 0 & 37.
When I speak of Joe Louis, I sum it up by saying…”I had an accidental
contact with greatness.” No other athlete in the past century was more closely
associated with America and Democracy and standing up for America as was Joe Louis. I argue occasionally with guys in my age group who point out the fact that Muhammad Ali lost three years of his prime for refusing to go into the US Army, and that’s true. But here’s a newsflash, Joe Louis lost four years of his prime because he did go, and still holds every significant record in boxing in spite of his four year layoff for service to this country;
• The longest reign of a heavyweight champ…11 years 9 months
• The most successful title defenses in boxing history…25
• The most knockouts in title fights…22
• The most consecutive knockouts in title fights…14
• The most first round knockouts in title fights…5
And kids, that’s just what Joe Louis accomplished in boxing history.
When this country was in real crisis and palpable fear after the bombing
of Pearl Harbor, kind of like we felt after the 9‐11 attacks, Joe Louis did
something that was unprecedented in the world of sports or the history of
this country. Joe put his heavyweight title on the line, and everything that
goes along with being the heavyweight champ . . . the money, the prestige,
the celebrity and fought a championship fight and gave every penny of the
purse to the United States Government . . . the Navy Relief Fund.
Joe was criticized by some for fighting for nothing, especially in the face of the blatant racial discrimination in both society and the armed forces at the time.
Joe answered, “I’m not fighting for nothing, I’m fighting for my country”.
He added, “There’s a lot of things wrong with this country…But Hitler ain’t gonna fix em.” And then Joe did it again. He put his heavyweight crown on the line and gave every penny of the purse to the Army Relief Fund, saying “I’m only doing what any red blooded American would do.” And then he joined the Army, refused a commission and fought 96 more times for the government…96 More Times. During one of those fund raisers, Joe Louis provided a national slogan for the war effort and gave real comfort to the people of this country when he said, ”We’re going to do our part and we’ll win because we are on God’s side.”
Today, it all sounds pretty corny. Well this world could use that kind of corn
again, I know this country could.
Joe was instrumental in the eventual desegregation of the military. Joe
refused to fight exhibitions unless the audience was integrated. (Most don’t
know that Joe paid for poor soldiers (black & white) who couldn’t afford
admission.) Joe intervened to clear Jackie Robinson of court martial charges
at Fort Riley Kansas, before Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.
Joe Louis broke the color barrier in golf by being the first black man to play in a PGA sanctioned event in the previously all white sport.
Joe Louis was honored by this country with burial in Arlington National
Cemetery. We’re told by the Honor Guards at Arlington, that the most requested grave sites are…John F. Kennedy, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Joe Louis.
Joe was also honored by his country as the first black athlete on a US Postage
The stamp was issued in Detroit on June 22nd, 1993 at the Joe Louis
Arena…”Oh, “The Joe!”
The city of Detroit and the owners of the Detroit Red Wings honored Joe Louis
and the sporting world by dedicating the Joe Louis Arena on October 8th, 1983.
It should be interesting to note;
• There is no Babe Ruth Stadium
• There is no Jack Dempsey Arena
• There is no Muhammad Ali Arena
• There is no Michael Jordan Arena
• There is a Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan
• No other sports icon has an arena named for him except…
The Joe Louis Arena…In Detroit, Michigan
Let me put this another way;
• The Greatest Heavyweight Boxing Champion of All Time
• A Savior to His Race
• A Hero to the Free World During World War II
• Helped Desegregate the Military, Baseball & Golf
• A Hero’s Burial at Arlington National Cemetery
• The Grandson of Slaves
• The Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan
It’s hard for us to imagine the significance of Joe Louis to an entire generation of our parents, grandparents and the down trodden of those depression times.
There is no one in today’s sports world who inspires the hope and dignity that
Detroit’s Brown Bomber did for so many. His June 22, 1938 title fight with Germanys’ Max Schmeling was seen by the world as Democracy VS. Nazism. After the fight, and with war clouds looming, much of white society began to see Joe as an American worthy of admiration…A small change which opened a big door in sports and the country.
It was reported that in 1939 in a Southern State a black inmate was to be the first person to be executed in that states’ gas chamber. The prison officials wanted to determine if the gas chamber was more humane than the electric chair, so they installed a microphone. At the last moment of his life he could have called out to the governor for mercy, to his mother for comfort or to God almighty for salvation. Instead he yelled out,
“Save Me Joe Louis…Save Me.”
George Joseph – Las Vegas, NV 08-16
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