Muhammad Ali

02/09/2008 – Muhammad Ali – 12th Annual Keep Memory Alive “Power of Love Gala” – Arrivals – MGM Grand Convention Center – Las Vegas, NV, USA – Keywords: Muhammad Ali, Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., Cassius Clay – – – Photo Credit: PRN / PR Photos

Birth Name: Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.

Date of Birth: January 17, 1942

Place of Birth: Louisville, Jefferson, Kentucky, United States

Date of Death: June 3, 2016

Place of Death: Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S.

Ethnicity: African-American, small amounts of English, Scottish, and Welsh, possibly some Malagasy

Muhammad Ali was a legendary American professional boxer, activist, and philanthropist. He is considered the greatest heavyweight fighter in the history of the sport. He was nicknamed “The Greatest.”

Muhammad was the son of African-American parents, Odessa Lee (Grady) and Cassius Marcellus Clay. His brother is boxer Rahman Ali. He was a descendant of pre-Civil War era American slaves in the South. He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., and he and his father were named after abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay. He was given the name Muhammad Ali in the mid 1960s, when he was twenty two, by Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.

Muhammad was married to Yolanda (“Lonnie”) Williams, until his death. He had at least nine children, including four with his former wife, actress and martial artist Khalilah Ali; a daughter with Aaisha Ali; two, including professional boxer and television personality Laila Ali, with his former wife, actress and model Veronica Porché Ali; and a son with Yolanda.

Muhammad’s maternal great-grandfather, Abe Grady, is often said to have been an Irish emigrant, from County Clare, who moved to Kentucky, but this is evidently incorrect. No Irish-born people named Abe or Abraham Grady appear on any Kentucky censuses. The Abe Grady who was Muhammad’s maternal great-grandfather was almost certainly an African-American man, born in Kentucky.

One of Muhammad’s maternal great-grandfathers, Thomas Morehead, was born a slave, to a slave mother, Dinah. His father was said to have been Dinah’s owner, Armstead S. Morehead, who was white, and had English, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry.

Muhammad’s paternal grandfather was Herman Heaton Clay (the son of John Henry Clay and Sarah “Sallie” Fry). Herman was born in Louisville, Jefferson, Kentucky. Sallie was said to have been born in Madagascar.

Muhammad’s paternal grandmother was Edith E. Greathouse (the daughter of James Montgomery Greathouse and Betsy J. Alexander). Edith was born in Kentucky. James was the son of Flemming Fance/Lance. Betsy was the daughter of Wesley Alexander and Patsy Hopkins/Fry, who was born a slave. Wesley’s father, Muhammad’s great-great-great-grandfather Archer Alexander (c. 1806, Virginia – December 8, 1880, St. Louis, Missouri), was a slave who warned Union troops of Confederate sabotage attacks in 1863. He was the model for the slave in Freedom’s Monument, the Emancipation Memorial located in Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C. A biography of Archer, The Story of Archer Alexander: From Slavery to Freedom, March 30, 1863, was written by The Rev. William Greenleaf Eliot, Jr., 1885. He also appeared on a U.S. postage stamp released in 1940 as part of the Black American Commemorative series.

Muhammad’s maternal grandfather was named John Lewis Grady (the son of Abraham “Abe” Grady, and of a woman surnamed Walker). John was born in Allensville, Todd, Kentucky. Muhammad’s great-grandmother was the daughter of Lewis Walker and Amanda J. “Mandy.”

Muhammad’s maternal grandmother was Birdie Bell Morehead (the daughter of Thomas/Tom Morehead and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bibb). Birdie was born in Logan County, Kentucky. Thomas was the son of Armstead S. Morehead and Dinah. Elizabeth was the daughter of Abram Bibb and Rachael Ferguson.

Sources: Genealogies of Muhammad Ali –

New York Times article about Muhammad’s ancestry, 1980 –

Muhammad’s paternal great-grandparents, James Montgomery Greathouse and Betsy J. Alexander, on the 1910 U.S. Census –

Muhammad’s mother on the 1920 U.S. Census –

Muhammad’s maternal grandfather, John Lewis Grady, on the 1900 U.S. Census –


Curious about ethnicity

50 Responses

  1. Jason 7 says:

    Since Malagasy is a mixture of mainland east (sub-saharan) African and Austronesian, both culturally as well as genetically, shouldn’t Malagasy be a separate category, or at least noted under “Ethnicity:”?

  2. Jason 7 says:

    So *very* distant Italian and possibly 1/8th Malagasy?

    I know a trelative of his, they suggested a lot more irish, I was surprised that there wasn’t any.

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