50 years ago today, Muhammad Ali refused to join Army

Fifty years ago today (April 28, 1967), 25-year-old boxing champion Muhammad Ali -- who had just three years earlier changed his name from Cassius Clay --  refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army and was immediately stripped of his heavyweight title.

From an account published by the New York Daily News in 1967:

Clay showed up at the induction center shortly before 9 A.M. with his assistant trainer, Drew (Bundini) Brown and a personal photographer, Howard Bingham. The 25-year-old popoff king went through the formalities.

When it came time for him to step forward with about 30 others for the oath administered upon induction, Clay was motionless.

When an officer asked Clay at roll call name he wanted to use, the champion replied: "I am Muhammad Ali."

Clay then went through approximately four hours of physical and mental examinations, in addition to filling out forms.

He immediately was led to another room, where it was explained that failure to take the step could result in a penalty of five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.

Clay then returned to the induction room and the opportunity to take the oath again was presented to him. When he refused this time, Clay was asked to sign a statement that he refused induction into the Armed Forces.

"Muhammed Ali has just refused to be inducted into the U.S. Armed Forces," said a subsequent statement by Lt. Col. J.D. McKee, commandant of the induction center.

During his boxing career, Clay joined the Nation of Islam in 1964, settling on the name Muhammad Ali. He had been outspoken about his objections to the war in Vietnam.

At trial in Houston a few months later, his lawyers argued the legality of his draft classification on grounds he was a black Muslim minister. He was convicted in June 1967 by an all-white jury after 20 minutes of deliberations of violating Selective Service laws.

A federal judge promptly sentenced him to five years in prison.

He remained free as he appealed his case.

Ali's first fight since he was stripped of the world heavyweight championship and had his boxing license suspended took place Oct. 26, 1970, at Atlanta's Municipal Auditorium.

The Supreme Court unanimously voted in 1971 to overturn Ali’s draft evasion conviction.

In 1984, Ali, the only man to win the title three times, sued boxing authority to name him as the holder of the heavyweight title for 1967-70, the years of his arrest, conviction, appeal and exoneration.

The same year he made public his battle with Parkinson's, a degenerative neurological condition. Ali died at age 74 in 2016.

He is regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time.