WATCH: Tavis Smiley ​Shares How Muhammad Ali Helped Heal a Rift He Had With His Father


Muhammad Ali touched many people in very personal ways — among them, author, PBS host and “Sunday Morning” contributor Tavis Smiley:

The defining moment of my life occurred when I was just 12 years old.

I was falsely accused of something by the minister at my church, and my father, who was both a deacon and a church trustee, in a momentary lapse of judgment, beat me so severely that it put me in the hospital.

That incident essentially ruined my relationship with my dad during those all-important adolescent years, and we were basically estranged well into my adulthood.

The great freedom fighter Frederick Douglass once said, “It’s easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men.”

I was a broken man, struggling emotionally for years with how to repair the relationship with my father, whom I’d long since forgiven, but with whom I still didn’t have a loving relationship.

Enter Muhammad Ali.

As a child, my fondest memories of the good times with my dad all revolved around watching those historic Ali fights on TV. My dad loved Ali — not just for his mastery of the sweet science in the ring, but for his courage to be a truthteller.

And I’d never seen a man so willing to speak the truth, no matter the consequences. And so, Ali, the freest Black man I’d ever seen, became my hero, too.

I could never have imagined that I’d ever grow up to meet the champ, interview him many times, hang out with him, and eventually be honored to call him a friend and a brother. But sometimes your life exceeds your dreams.

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