This Day in Black History: June 20, 1967

Cassius Clay, who would later be known as Muhammad Ali, was convicted of violating Selective Service laws.

Before he became known for "The Fight of the Century" with undefeated champion Joe Frazier and his "Rumble in the Jumble" with George Foreman, Muhammad Ali, also known as Cassius Clay, had already made headlines: He was convicted and sentenced on June 20, 1967, to five years in prison and fined $10,000 for violating Selective Service laws for refusing to be drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Lawyers for the world heavyweight champion, then 25 years old, who had become a Muslim in 1967, argued that as a minister of his faith he was exempt.

The all-white jury of six men and six women took only 20 minutes to deliberate and no one was surprised by their verdict, The New York Times reported at the time. However, Ali paid a bond and remained free while the verdict was being appealed. 
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned  felony conviction in 1971 by a vote of 8-0, with the court's only African-American, Justice Thurgood Marshall, abstaining because he had been the Justice Department's Solicitor General when Ali's case originated.

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