Statement on the Death of Former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Joe Louis

April 13, 1981

I was privileged and will always be grateful to have had Joe Louis as my friend.

The son of an Alabama sharecropper, Joe Louis fought his way to the top of professional boxing and into the hearts of millions of Americans. Out of the ring, he was a considerate and soft-spoken man; inside the ring, his courage, strength, and consummate skill wrote a unique and unforgettable chapter in sports history.

But Joe Louis was more than a sports legend -- his career was an indictment of racial bigotry and a source of pride and inspiration to millions of white and black people around the world.

All of America mourns his loss, and we convey our sympathy to his family and friends. But we also share their pride in his professional achievements, his service to his country, and his strength of heart and spirit.

Note: On April 16 the White House announced that at the request of Mrs. Louis, the President waived the burial requirements for Arlington National Cemetery to allow Joe Louis to be buried there.