I sat next to him on the dais as he and I had been invited to speak at a golf symposium in Houston,Texas. The longer I sat there the more I thought... there is something about his name.
And there was something about his name. Louis. As I sat there waiting for the meeting to begin my mind went back to when I was a small boy growing up in Indiana and how often I had heard his dad's name on the radio. In fact I remember on more than one hot summer nights how people in the neighborhood sat on their porches and listen to the radio when he was fighting.
His father Joe Louis was one of the first nationally known African Americans. A professional boxer of great fame. Said to be "Slow of foot but redeemingly fast of hands." That was Joe Louis. As a world champion he defended his title twenty-five times, something so few other champions before or since did. Over all he won sixty-eight professional fights and lost only three. He scored fifty-four knockouts including five in the first round. One of the three times he lost a writer ask him about it Louis had a classic line: "Nobody wins all the time."
A writer once said that one of his upcoming opponents, Billy Conn, would be too speedy for him and would out box Louis. Louis had a great answer: "He can run but he can't hide." I think another writer said it very well about Louis: "He always had a sense of dignity."
Sadly he ran into tax issues and later in life health issues made him only a skeleton of the great fighter he once had been. Louis's son, the man sitting next to me on that day, once said of his father:
"I couldn't help thinking of Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman. In the play the man's name was Willy Loman, wasn't it? Well, there's a correlation between them. Wasn't Willy a grand guy, just like my father, and then he started growing old and losing his customers? He was never really aware that he had lost his territory. That's the tragedy of it, just like my father's."
Joe Louis Barrow, Jr
He must have been a grand guy. I never heard anyone, press or otherwise speak badly of him and I can remember how when he fought all the folks would be listening.
November 15, 2017