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Henry Sadlo Sr. – one of few white men who showed kindness and respect to Muhammad Ali before he was famous

THE GREATEST OF ALLLLLLLLLLLL TIIIIIIMMMMMMMME! Muhammad Ali was one of the most beloved, most hated, most intriguing figures in American history. A new book by Jonathan Eig is perhaps the most thoroughly detailed, heavily researched looks at Ali’s fascinating life.

Growing up on Piper Court in Louisville’s Glenafton subdivision, our next door neighbors were the Sadlos. Henry & Pat had six children (Henry Jr, Cathy, Frank, Susan, Linda, and Jim) and they treated the fourteen Meiners children as additional family members.

Our homes were wide open for each other. We just walked in to find the Sadlo or Meiners we sought. That’s how we rolled in the 60s and 70s.

The above book passage gives great insight into the open heart of Henry Sadlo Sr., a man Muhammad Ali called “the greatest lawyer of all time!”

Henry Sadlo Sr and Muhammad Ali, whom Henry called “G” (a childhood nickname for the Greatest of All Time) photo from the 1980s

Ali, just like any Meiners kid, walked into the Sadlo home and checked to see what was cooking on the stove. That’s how loving homes are set up.

Louisville loved Ali and Ali reciprocated. Jonathan Eig’s book ALI: A LIFE bursts some fallacies like the misleading tale of Ali throwing his 1960 Olympics medal into the Ohio River. Never happened. Ali lost it but a white author manufactured the story to weave it into civil rights struggles of the times. Ali himself admitted that he lost the medal but the lie took on a life of its own.

Henry Sadlo was indeed Cassius Clay’s first lawyer and other honorable attorneys continued Clay’s launch toward fame and financial stability.

There was no truth to the story of white Louisville businessmen taking advantage of a poor black kid named Cassius Clay. Eig details how the Louisville group protected Ali from financial leeches and foolish spending habits that befell Joe Louis and other high earning boxers who wound up in financial ruins. It was the Nation of Islam leaders who ultimately got a foothold to commandeer much of the champ’s money. But Sadlo and the other white Louisville attorneys did right by the Clay family.

Above all else, Ali’s kindness and affection for loyal people, beautiful women, cash money, and food were the driving forces of his life. Ali was the most charming Black Lives Matter advocate in history. But he never forgot his friends, even the white ones.

After the hospital trip to visit Henry Sadlo Sr., Ali and his brother Rahman, Frank and Dr. Henry Sadlo Jr. decided to take food back to Muhammad Ali’s mother-in-law’s home. The Champ said he wanted fried chicken so Henry Sadlo Jr. drove the group to the KFC on South Preston near Clarks Lane.

Henry ordered first. Muhammad and Rahman next ordered a 20 piece bucket with two sides.

Muhammad Ali pointed to a display photo of peach cobbler. “And I want some of that.”

The teenage clerk, oblivious to the identity of his customer, replied “That doesn’t come with your order.”

Just then the franchise operator emerged from the kitchen, realized what was happening, and gifted Ali with a tray full of cobblers fresh out of the oven.

Even if a Louisville kid missed a moment to spoil Muhammad, the next guy would get it done.

The book is a phenomenal account of Cassius Clay-Muhammad Ali’s life and a detailed history of 20th century Louisville.

Kudos to author Eig. This book is a compelling read; a fully compassionate yet properly critical look at one of the most fascinating human beings to enthrall the world.

dad. husband. observer. media personality. pathological flyer.