NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 19

At any rate, thousands left their gambling tables and scoreboards to witness the Liston funeral procession pass through the Las Vegas strip. Among the celebrities were Ed Sullivan, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Jack E. Leonard, Jerry Vale, and Rosey Grier. Many were in tears because deep down they probably knew that Sonny Liston, born into poverty, and without schooling, called by Joe Louis, The Greatest Heavyweight Champion, had been dealt a bad hand. He said that he was treated like a “sewer rat,” but while Ali was hailed as a hero for the middle class and for his stand against an unpopular war, 17 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE Liston represented the underclass and his father beat him. He traveled to St. Louis to be with his mother who, instead of giving him an affectionate greeting, wanted to know why he showed up. Having no education, he committed petty high-risk crimes like other members of his class. An armed robbery landed him in prison. He got into trouble with the law and sports writers like Larry Merchant after he defended himself against a drunk, armed cop who lied about the incident as some cops do. Regularly. His wife Geraldine was correct when she called him the champ that nobody wanted. n BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 17 3/29/15 11:41 AM