As the world began its mourning of Muhammad Ali soon after the news of his death on Saturday morning, virtually every aspect of the onetime heavyweight boxing great’s 74 years was being remembered.
But there was one side of the man known universally as “The Champ” or “The Greatest” that so far has received little press attention: How Ali, who startled Middle America with his conversion to the Muslim faith in 1964 and refusal to register for the draft during the Vietnam War, was an active supporter of conservative Republicans in his later years.
He startled many longtime fans in 1984 by endorsing President Ronald Reagan for re-election. Ali also backed friend and former New Mexico Gov. David Cargo in a losing race for Congress in 1986, proclaiming Republican Cargo was “the right white.” He also stumped for South Carolina’s conservative former State GOP Chairman Van Hipp for Congress in 1994 and helped Republican Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch win re-election in 1988.