Joe Louis Dies This Day April 12, 1981
Joseph Louis Barrow (May 13, 1914 – April 12, 1981), best known as Joe Louis and nicknamed the “Brown Bomber”, was an American professional boxer who competed from 1934 to 1951. He reigned as the world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949, and is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Louis’ championship reign lasted 140 consecutive months, during which he participated in 26 championship fights. The 27th fight, against Ezzard Charles in 1950, was a challenge for Charles’ heavyweight title and so is not included in Louis’ reign. Louis was victorious in 25 title defenses, a world record second only to Julio César Chávez with 27. In 2005, Louis was ranked as the best heavyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization, and was ranked number one on The Ring magazine’s list of the “100 greatest punchers of all time.”
Louis’ cultural impact was felt well outside the ring. He is widely regarded as the first African American to achieve the status of a nationwide hero within the United States, and was also a focal point of anti-Nazi sentiment leading up to and during World War II. He was instrumental in integrating the game of golf, breaking the sport’s color barrier in America by appearing under a sponsor’s exemption in a PGA event in 1952.
Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League, and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s Joe Louis “The Champ” Golf Course, situated south of Chicago in Riverdale, Illinois, are named in his honor.