Louis remembered on 25th anniversary of his death


ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) – With the laying of a wreath and the sound of taps, Joe Louis was remembered at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday on the 25th anniversary of the boxing great’s death.

Family and friends gathered at Louis’ grave, beneath the long branches of a splendid oak tree not far from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. “The Brown Bomber,” the nickname etched on his tombstone, was remembered as a black sports hero who transcended the divisions of race in the segregated 1930s and 1940s. Louis was heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949.

His most memorable victory came on June 22, 1938, when he avenged a loss to Germany’s Max Schmeling with a first-round knockout at Yankee Stadium, a blow to Adolf Hitler’s campaign for Aryan supremacy.

Louis also served in the Army during World War II, achieving the rank of staff sergeant. He did not meet the requirements for burial at Arlington when he died at 66 in 1981, but President Reagan honored the request of Louis’ widow and granted a waiver.

The cemetery’s superintendent, John Metzler, said Louis’ grave continues to attract many visitors. An image of Louis, wearing boxing shorts and gloves, is engraved on the stone.

Barrow said he has been working with filmmaker Spike Lee on a movie about his father. Such projects keep the Louis legacy alive.

“It’s extraordinary to me that it doesn’t seem to fade,” Barrow said. “I’ll be reading a paper somewhere, even in Europe, and the bottom line is there’s a reference to Joe Louis. He died 25 years ago. He held the title from 37 to 49. He was essentially out of the limelight, and yet they still make reference to him. I don’t know why the world doesn’t want to let go of this man, and I’m thankful that it doesn’t.”