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champion boxer was born on North Railroad Street in Ailey
World champion boxer was born on North Railroad Street in Ailey
BPC Director of Marketing
Feeling a bit overwhelmed, Gloria Cannida-Farmer
of Higgston never thought this day would come. After all, it’s not
every day that you have the opportunity to attend a ceremony unveiling a
commemorative stamp featuring
your first cousin.
A first cousin who just happens to be “The World’s
Marketing Manager for the USPS in Macon, and Marvin Palmer, Postmaster
for the Ailey Post Office, unveil the commemorative stamp featuring world-champion
boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.
Family members and supporters of famed boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson,
along with local
officials from the United States Postal Service,
gathered this past Friday morning in the Snooks Student Activities Center on
of Brewton-Parker College to unveil only the second commemorative stamp honoring
a boxing legend in Postal Service history.
The commemorative stamp – which depicts Robinson in the peak years of
his fighting career and looks similar to what a fight poster would have looked
like back in the 1940s and ‘50s – was actually released on Friday,
April 7 in New York City, where Robinson was actually discovered in a local
gym. Also on that day, a “First Day Issue Ceremony” was held at
the Theater in Madison Square Garden, featuring remarks from Ray Robinson II,
Sugar Ray’s son, and included a who’s who of boxing greats – including
Joe Frazier and Jake “Raging Bull” Lamotta – as special guests.
In total, approximately one hundred million stamps were released, with the
stamp being available nationwide on Saturday, April 8.
At the local dedication ceremony at Brewton-Parker,
Ms. Sherry Scruggs, Marketing Manager for the USPS in Macon, gave the keynote
address in the absence of Ms.
Lizabeth J. Dobbins, USPS District Manager for the South Georgia District.
Ms. Scruggs gave a brief synopsis of Robinson’s life and career in the
boxing ring which ended with his retirement in 1965.
After Ms. Scruggs’ address to the
crowd, the stamp was officially unveiled. Those who took part in the official
unveiling were Mr. Marvin Palmer, Postmaster
of the Ailey Post Office, Mr. Scott Bower, Manager of Post Office Operations
for the USPS, and Ms. Scruggs.
A sheet of commemorative stamps and special cancellation were then given to
Brewton-Parker and to Gloria Cannida-Farmer, who represented the Robinson family.
During the ceremony, Ms. Cannida-Farmer was given an opportunity to reflect
and share some thoughts about her famous cousin and the story she told was
Sugar Ray Robinson was born Walker Smith, Jr. on May 3, 1921. For most of
his life, Robinson, along with a majority of people across the country who
followed his boxing career, thought he was born in Detroit, Michigan. Robinson
penned Detroit as his birthplace in his autobiography. Detroit was even listed
in encyclopedias as the place of birth.
But it wasn’t until Sugar Ray sent
a letter requesting a certified copy of his birth certificate to the Montgomery
County Courthouse in Mount Vernon
dated September 9, 1987 that thoughts of where he was born began to change.
According to the birth certificate, Walker
Smith, Jr. was actually born in a home at 312 North Railroad Street – now Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive
East – in Ailey to Mr. and Mrs. Walter (Leila) Smith, Sr.
For a period of time, though, Robinson did live with his mother in Detroit
when he was young.
In 1932, Robinson’s family moved to
Harlem, New York where his boxing abilities were noticed in a local gym.
He was able to acquire an Amateur Athletic
Union card that was issued to a boy named Ray Robinson. Using his assumed name,
he built a reputation for himself by fighting 85 amateur bouts and going undefeated.
In 1940, Robinson became a professional boxer after winning the Golden Gloves
featherweight and lightweight titles.
Robinson toured the country’s military bases while in the United States
Army and entertained the troops by sparring with three other boxers – one
being heavyweight champion Joe Louis. He was honorably discharged in June 1944
and devoted his civilian life to a goal of becoming the world welterweight
champion. Robinson achieved his goal and was the undefeated world welterweight
champion from 1946 to 1951, when he won his first of five world middleweight
Upon Sugar Ray’s retirement from boxing on December 10, 1965, he was
presented with a trophy during a ceremony at Madison Square Garden which had
as its inscription, “The World’s Greatest Fighter.”
According to The Ring Record Book, Robinson’s overall record stood at
174 wins (109 KO’s), 19 losses, 6 draws, and 2 no contests.
In 1967, Robinson was elected to the Boxing
Hall of Fame. A former editor of The Ring magazine gave Robinson the number
one ranking in his 1984 book
The 100 Greatest Boxers of All Time. In 1990, Robinson became a member by induction
of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Nine years later, the Associated
Press assembled a panel of boxing experts ultimately giving Robinson the title
of “the number one fighter of the century.”
Robinson died April 12, 1989 from complications
of Alzheimer’s disease
The large replica of the commemorative stamp
that was unveiled during the ceremony at Brewton-Parker on Friday will be
hung in the Ailey Post Office
so that the public will never forget “Ailey’s native son.”
(The United States Postal Service and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed
to this story.)