An original four-page typed press release signed by legendary boxer Muhammad Ali following his refusal to be inducted into the U. S. Army in Houston 51 years ago sold at auction for $19,200.
Originally in the possession of news reporter Dan Lovett, the item was auctioned off by the Robert Edward Auctions company. The bidding closed on Sunday.
Lovett, understanding the historical significance of the documents, had Ali sign one of the pages. The reporter was working for radio station KILT-AM at the time.
The starting bid for the pages was set at $2,500 and a bidding war soon started between collectors looking to own a piece of American sports history.
On April 28, 1967, Ali made headlines for refusing to be drafted into the U.S. Army on the grounds of being a conscientious objector, and it all happened here in Houston.
It would set off a chain of events that wouldn’t cease until a 1971 Supreme Court decision ultimately reversed his conviction.
The high court stated that it was not possible to decide which of the three basic tests for conscientious objector status were used and relied on by the draft board in Ali’s case to deny his objecting status.
Lovett penned a letter in 2012 detailing the provenance of the set of pages.
“I was assigned on April 28, 1967, to cover the proceedings surrounding the arrival of, then World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali, for his Texas induction hearing in Houston, Texas. Ali, who had a residence of record at the time in Houston, for tax purposes involving his various title fights in the Astrodome, was thus a registered member of the federal government’s Houston draft board,” Lovett writes.
“On April 28, 1967, at the Houston Draft Board office on San Jacinto Street, Ali refused to step forward each time his name was called. After his third refusal he was informed that he had committed a felony and would be so charged. Leaving the Draft Board hearing, Ali held a brief press conference on the sidewalk outside of the Draft Board office, handing out a four-page release, stating his reasons for refusing the draft. Those of us gathered as members of the press, each received the release.”
According to Lovett, “most of those covering the Ali story, chose not to keep the release and either tore it up or tossed it away.” Instead of following suit Lovett asked Ali to autograph the release and the boxer did so in blue ink.
“He did so on the last page of the document,” wrote Lovett. “I have not been able, for over 40 years, to find anyone who has kept a copy, as I did. I even asked [Howard] Cosell about it years later, if he had kept a copy and he said no. I am not sure even Ali or the Nation of Islam still has a copy of his release.”
Photo: David Nance, Staff
Lovett maintained in 2012 that at the time he wrote the letter he felt the document and its signature carried a historical weight.
“I find this document to be a part of American history, considering not only its authenticity, but the contribution Ali made as a black man to American life.”
After leaving the Houston market in ’70s, Lovett went on to have much success in the national sports news spotlight. He has since retired from the news industry and lives in northwest Houston.