Local man remembers multiple encounters with Muhammad Ali

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MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) -  Between traveling with his father, Civil Rights Activist James Meredith, and his own career as a Congressional Lobbyist, John Meredith has met many incredible people, but he says Muhammad Ali stands out as one of the best.  “He’s the greatest," says Meredith.“I was traveling with my father, I don’t know where to, don’t know where we’re going. But we were in the car.”

John says he does remember when Ali came over to speak to him for the first time, when he was just a young boy.  “He had a kindness about him that was very unusual for me at that time to see. Almost docile but he was just very very gentle, very warm, and for those few minutes, I was the only thing in the world," says Meredith.

His father is an icon himself. James Meredith was the first African American to enroll at Ole Miss. John says Ali was a frequent topic at the dinner table.  “I distinctly remember long conversations between my mother and father about the fight with Fraiser and that was for weeks, a very big topic of conversation," he says.

Later in life, John and his wife got the chance to see Ali again, this time at a political fundraiser in Washington D.C. “What he said was, the champ would like to see you, it was wow, ok, bye guys, I gotta go see the champ you know," says Meredith.

By this time, Parkinson's Disease had limited "The Greatest" physically but didn't diminish his spirit.  “You just knew this guy was persevering. God, fate, whatever, put an obstacle in his way and you could just tell that this man was doing everything he could not to let that obstacle keep him from living the life that he wanted to, and everybody in that room was inspired just by meeting him," he says.

Meredith says Ali was a role model, long after he hung up his gloves.  “There are just certain people that have an aura about them when you’re in their presence. It changes you at least in the moment and he truly was one of those individuals," says Meredith.