An interfaith memorial service for three-time heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad took place in Alibegan in Louisville, Kentucky, last week , as thousands gathered to say goodbye to the boxing legend and activist.
Ali died on June 3 at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, where he had spent the previous few days being treated for respiratory complications, a family spokesperson told PEOPLE. He was 74.
Lonnie Ali, the boxer’s fourth wife, gave a moving tribute on Friday saying that her husband “did not fear death.”
“His timing is once again poignant. His passing and its meaning for our time should not be overlooked as we face uncertainty in a world and divisions at home as to who we are as people. Muhammad’s life should provide guidance,” she told thousands of mourners.
There were many speakers and eulogists at the memorial ceremony. Below, some of what they said about the late Ali.
• Dr. Kevin Cosby
“Muhammad Ali was a product of a difficult time and he dared to love black people in a time when black people had a hard time loving themselves. He dared to affirm the beauty of blackness he dared to affirm the power and the capacity of African-Americans. He dared to love America’s most unloved race and he loved us all and we loved him because we knew he loved us. He loved us all whether you lived in the suburbs or the slums or the avenue or in the alley, whether you came from the penthouse or the projects.”
• Sen. Orrin Hatch
“Ali took the pen of history and wrote his own title in the text books. He was not Muhammad Ali the prize fighter or Muhammad Ali the world champion, he was Muhammad Ali ‘The Greatest…’ With the cut throat quickness of a street fighter and the simple grace of a ballerina Ali moved with Achilles like agility and punched with herculean strength. To see Ali’s athletic prowess is to see only half the man… He may have been a tough and tenacious man in the ring but he was compassionate and caring with those he loved.”
• Monsignor Henry Kriegel
“Muhammad Ali opened our eyes to the evil of racism the absurdity of war… He chided our consciences and awaked in us a deeper sense, the need to respect one another and set aside racial differences.”
• Rabbi Michael Lerner
“He was a person who was willing to risk a great honor that he got and a great fame he got to speak truth to power….he stood up and was willing to take that kind of a risk because of that kind of moral integrity.”
• Chief Sidney Hill, as translated by Chief Oren Lyons
“He fought for the people of color and he was a man of peace and principle. A man of compassion who used his great gifts for the common good… He was always supportive of the indigenous people of this hemisphere…. He brought a light into this world…and that light will shine a long long time. Peace brother, peace.”
• Rabbi Joe Rapport
“He was our heart and that heart beats here still… There will never be another ‘Greatest’ like Muhammad Ali, but we together can now embody his kindness and his compassion. We can say each of us in our hearts there’s a little bit of Ali in me.”
• Ambassador Attallah Shabazz
“Having Muhammad Ali in my life somehow sustained my dad’s breath for me just a little while longer… 51 years longer. Until now. I am forever grateful at our union on this earth forever.”
Former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger arrives for Muhammad Ali’s memorial service
Ali designed the two-day memorial in great detail years before his death, ESPN reports. And spokesman Bob Gunnell said ahead of the funeral that the service would be a reflection of Ali’s life.
Muhammad Ali’s daughter Maryum arrives for his memorial service
“Muhammad’s extraordinary boxing career only encompasses half his life,”
“The other half was committed to carrying a message of peace and inclusion to the world. Following his wishes, his funeral will reflect those principals and will be a celebration open to everyone.”
Muhammad Ali’s body is loaded into a hearse by pall bearers (top row, from left): Gene Dibble Jr., John Ramsey, Jerry Ellis, Kamawi Ali, Jan Waddell (and bottom row, from left): Ibn Ali, Lennox Lewis, Will Smith, John Grady and Mike Tyson
The moving service followed a 19-mile processional around Louisville, marking the star’s final tour around his hometown