I was so energized after my recent exclusive interview with Dr. Enid C. Pinkney that I decided to pay a personal visit to the Historic Hampton House and see it up close and personal. It just so happened that as I was pulling into the parking area, so was one of the staff members who happened to also be my cousin. What luck, or some call it destiny. She was there to meet with a lady who organizes events as the facility was not currently open to the public. I got a chance to look around a bit while they toured the newly renovated facility. One of the first things that I noticed was a dedication plaque on the left lobby wall bearing a picture of my Aunt who is in charge of this place and also was the cog that kept the wheels of hope spinning during the 14-year salvation process. I also noticed a photo of what this place looked like before renovations which may explain why I cannot for the life of me remember it although it sits about two miles south of where I lived as a teenager back in the 1970's.
The lobby area bears the fresh new logo of this soon-to-be mecca for events, tours, and office spaces; and you cannot help but flash back to the era of segregation in Miami and picture some of the now iconic persons of color who had no other choice of accommodations while visiting the Magic City. Unlike some segregated motels and hotels, they were at least allowed the dignity of entering from the front and not the rear doors or kitchen areas. My how silly some people were back during that era of stupidity known today as Jim Crow (1877 - 1954) -- which was derived from a minstrel show. Right about this time my cousin invited me to tag along on their tour of this fresh new facility which includes now historic blown-up photos that read like a who's who of Black history.
I love telling people about how he actually visited my elementary school (Lillie C. Evans) back in the 1960's right about the time that he was stripped of his title belt for refusing to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1967. He wore long blue jeans, a white t-shirt and believe it or not; combat service boots. Mr. Ali was very entertaining and great with us kids. I can remember him picking up some of my girl class mates and joking around with them in that special way that only he could.
Fast forward to my high school days and while riding the bus to Miami Beach Senior High School, we would see him jogging with his now iconic trainer Angelo Dundee (passed away in 2012) following behind in a vehicle. His gym was located on 5th Street and Washington Avenue which is now part of the world-renowned playground known today as South Beach. It was founded and owned by Chris Dundee, big brother of Angelo, who was a boxing promoter who moved his operations down here from New York in 1950 after the completion of the Miami Beach Convention Center where he promoted boxing and wrestling matches for 27 years. On Tuesday February 25, 1964, Cassius Clay was introduced to the world at that center after defeating then Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston in the 6th round. I actually worked some of Dundee's wrestling matches there in the late 1970's as a ticket-taker and usher. The original structure was demolished in 1993 and in September of 2010 another one built in the same locale. Angelo was part of the team that re-opened it but his son (Jim) terminated their interest in 2013 shortly after another gym opened at nearby 1434 Alton Road known today as the World Famous 5th Street Gym.
Ali lived in Miami and rumors placed his home not too far from my late Aunt Dot's house somewhere near NW 46th St. and 10th Avenue. There is a scene in his movie "The Greatest" (1977) that takes place in that house; but not the actual one. You younger folks might not believe this but there used to be a Black-owned burger joint here called Champburger which reportedly paid Ali $900,000, and a 1% royalty on annual profits for the use of his name and image. I visited the one at 6155 NW 17th Avenue in Liberty City, and there was also another one in Coconut Grove at 3268 Grand Avenue. In 1968, their stock sold for $5 per share. Ali's contract stipulated that all franchise menus sell Muslim friendly food without pork or shellfish.