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Zebulon man recounts organizing Ali speech at App State in 1969

Posted June 9, 2016 6:27 p.m. EDT

— As a Thursday prayer service opened the funeral processions for the late boxer and civil rights activist Muhammed Ali, one man in Zebulon recounted fondly having brought The Champ to the campus of Appalachian State in 1969.

Jack Stone spent two days hosting Ali in Boone as the student body president. He was the one who pushed for Ali’s visit – at a cost of roughly $1,000.

“The controversy was that he had accepted the Muslim faith and was a follower of Malcolm X,” Stone said. “At that point in time, you're talking about the 60s, there was this big push for civil rights and integration.”

When Ali arrived, Stone's plan to lay low didn't quite go as scripted.

“He wanted to see the campus, ‘take me to the campus,’” Stone recalled “’I want to see the university.’

“Within five minutes, there was 500 students and others there surrounding him.”

Ali ended up speaking with dozens of students, simply joking with them.

“He would fake a punch at you and come within maybe an inch of your face and you didn't see it,” Stone recounted. “It was so fast.”

Ali was accustomed to drawing big crowds and making headlines, but Appalachian State was his first time speaking at a university. When he stepped up to the podium, as Stone remembered, he spoke the words written on the first of many flashcards. Ali had prepared for his speech.

“We're living in a time of world trouble and the worst problem of all is the black and white in America,” Stone said, reciting the words from the speech.

Ali later gave those flashcards to Stone -- a souvenir he treasures almost as much as the memory itself.

Ali’s funeral services in Louisville continue Friday.